Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Holy Thursday--17 April AD 2014

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin & English
Lenten Observance

    By way of explanation:  In tonight’s Mass of the Last Supper, we will consecrate two large hosts, one to be received in Holy Communion, the second to be taken in procession to the Altar of Repose at the end of this Mass for the priest’s Communion of Good Friday.  The Church has us do this so that in the Good Friday Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified—not properly a Mass—so that we can demonstrate the connection of the Last Supper of Holy Thursday with the Sacrifice of the Cross on Good Friday.  On some level, Good Friday is the completion of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Holy Thursday.

    We don’t have enough people to organize over-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, so I am going to ask you to stay long enough to recite five decades of the Rosary at the Altar of Repose before you go home.  And, if possible, to be here early enough tomorrow evening to recite another five decades before the Liturgy begins.

    And, as I mentioned on Palm Sunday, one should see all the events of Holy Week and Easter as a continuum.  The Last Supper on Thursday is the origin of the priesthood, the Blessed Sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The Crucifixion on Friday is the bloody Sacrifice of our Lord, which is made present across time and place in an unbloody manner every time Holy Mass is offered.  And Easter celebrates our Lord’s Resurrection—His triumph over the death of the Cross, specifically, and His triumph over sin and death more generally.

    Together with the Incarnation—God taking human flesh and form in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary—these events represent the major steps in the redemption of fallen mankind.  We are called upon to rejoice in the possibility of salvation, and the possibility of one day encountering God face to face, as He intended in our creation.

    It has to have been about forty years ago that I began to read the scriptures in earnest, as I prepared to study for the priesthood.  One of the things that I found is that the accounts of the establishment of the Blessed Sacrament are not all where one might expect to find them.  They are in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, of course.  One expects next to hear “John,” so it is a little surprising to hear instead “First Corinthians.”  Why not “John”?

    Well, for one thing, Saint John wrote his Gospel considerably later than the other Evangelists.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all wrote sometime before 70 AD—Matthew, perhaps, as early as 42 AD—but John wrote his sometime just before 100 AD.  Chronologically, it may be the last book of the Bible rather than the Apocalypse, written around 96 AD.  So by the time of his writing, Christianity had some time to spread, and all Christians were familiar with the Holy Eucharist.  They had only to attend Mass to personally witness the reenactment of the Last Supper by a priest who functioned in the person of Christ.

    What those early Christians did not have was a detailed description of the interaction of our Lord with His Apostles during this first Holy Sacrifice.  We have this in chapters 13 through 17 of John’s Gospel, written by the man whom Jesus Christ considered to be His closest personal friend—the friend to whom He entrusted the care of His holy Mother.  John had already written about our Lord giving us His body and blood in his sixth chapter, and here he would write about the more human aspects of our Lord’s last night on earth.

    The account is one of humility.  The Master washes the feet of the disciples.  The disciples will be identified with the Master only if they love one another.[1]  Our Lord would go to the Father, but the disciples would not be abandoned.  They were to keep the Commandments for the Love of Jesus, and Jesus would send the Holy Ghost to be their advocate.  They would have a heavenly peace.[2]  Unity with Christ was essential, no matter how much the world hated Him; no matter how much it hated the Apostles for being like Him.[3]  They could, indeed, expect persecution, but the Holy Ghost would support them, and ultimately they would enter the Kingdom of the Father.[4]  John records that the Supper closed with our Lord’s prayer for unity among His disciples—they would be sanctified in truth, for the word of God is truth.[5]

    And then they would go out to the garden, and our Lord would be given over to the Jews and the Romans, and the Eucharistic Sacrifice of that evening would be completed within less than twenty-four hours on the wood of the Cross.

    Please understand the Saint John wrote these words for us.  The other Apostles were all dead when he wrote—it wasn’t to remind them of what had happened nearly seventy years before—it is a message for those who would follow.  It is we who are celled to be humble and to love one another.  It is we who must keep the Commandments in anticipation of the Holy Ghost.  It is we who will be persecuted for being like our Master, and not like those of the world—and that persecution will confirm that we have dome what He asked of us.  It is we who must be sanctified in the truth of God’s word, through unity with Jesus Christ.

    And tonight we celebrate the Sacrament of that unity—the true body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.  What greater unity can there be than to possess and to be possessed by the Son of God.  Saint John recorded our Lord’s words much earlier in his Gospel:  “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.”[6]

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