Holy Thursday (2018)

On Holy Thursday we contemplate the institution of the Mystical Supper – we realize that Christ gave His Body and Blood for the life of the world so that we can partake of salvation! The institution of the Eucharist by our Lord is something we not only think about, but actually receive when we come to the Liturgy this evening.

O how manifold and ineffable this communion! Christ became our brother, partaking of the same flesh and blood with us, and through them became like us. Through his blood He has redeemed us for Himself as true servants. He has made us His friends (cf. John 15:14-15) partaking of this blood He has bound and betrothed us to Himself as a bridegroom his bride, and become one flesh with us. He feeds us not only with blood instead of milk, but with His own body, and not only His body but also His Spirit. In so doing, He always preserves undiminished the nobility given to us by Him, leads us towards greater longing, and grants us to fulfill our desire, not only to see Him but also to touch Him, to delight in Him, to take Him into our hearts, and for each of us to hold Him in our inmost selves.

Come, He says, those of you who have set your heart on eternal life, eat My body and drink My blood (cf. John 6:53), that you may not only be in God’s image, but, by clothing yourselves in Me, the King and God of heaven, you may be eternal and heavenly gods and kings, feared by demons, admired by angels, beloved sons of the celestial Father, living forever fairer than the children of men (cf. Ps. 45:2), a delightful dwelling place for the sublime Trinity. (St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies, pp. 464-465)

Advertisements

Holy Thursday (2017)

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

8062389866_9ebfcee363

On Holy Thursday, our Lord instituted the Eucharist, blessing the bread and wine, declaring them to be His Body and Blood and giving them to His disciples at the Mystical Supper.   As is normative in the Church, our commemoration of the Lord’s Last Supper with His disciples makes Christ present for us today.  We are with the disciples contemplating the Mystery which Christ places before us:  the bread and wine of the Passover transformed into His Body and Blood.   In a prayer from the Didache, a late First Century Christian document, we find the following prayer of the Eucharist:

“As this broken bread, once scattered over the mountains was gathered into one,

So gather Your Church together from the ends of the earth, in your Kingdom.

24276513004_501aba9be4_n

Yes, to You be glory and power

Through Jesus Christ, for ever and ever.

We give you thanks, O holy Father,

For Your Holy name

That you have caused to dwell in our hearts,

For the gnosis, the faith, and the immortality,

That you have granted us through Jesus your servant,

Glory to you through the ages!

You it was, O all-powerful Master,

Who created the universe, to the praise of your Name:

You have given men food and drink

That they may enjoy them

And give you thanks.

28882397500_7040d7093d_n

But You have favoured us

With a spiritual food and drink

And with eternal life through your servant.

We give you thanks above all

Because you are mighty!

Glory to you in the ages.

Remember, Lord, to deliver your Church

From all evil, and to perfect it in Your love.

Gather together from the four winds

The Church that You have sanctified

In the Kingdom that you have prepared for it.

For to You is the power and the glory

for all ages!

21478281044_6c8d9aaa45_n

May your grace come and the world pass away!

Hosannah to the God of David!

If anyone is holy, let him come:

If he is not, let him do penance,

Marana, tha!

Amen.”

(Louis Bouyer, The Spirit of the New Testament & the Fathers, pp. 178-179)

3755544232_f0fb5e69c8

Of Your Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant! Holy Week is not focused only on past historical events, it is focusing on our relationship today with Jesus Christ our Lord.  We live in Christ in the present, not in the past.

Holy Thursday 2016

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

“In all of these savings deeds, God stoops down to His people. All that the Scriptures say about God’s walking, descending, bending down, being with, helping, bringing to birth, carrying, and so on, are simply different ways of describing God’s gracious condescension. Because man will not bow down to God, God, in His infinite humility, bows down to man. On the night He was betrayed, Christ set aside his garments, and stooped down to wash the feet of a man who would deny him three times (Jn. 13. 4-6). That’s how God was with the people of Israel. That’s how He is with everyone.”  (Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra , The Way of the Spirit,  p 301)

God is humble, and humbly serves us.  God the Son became a servant in order to serve and to save us.  He washes His disciples feet as an act of humble service before offering His life – His body and blood- for the salvation of the world.  He serves  us His Body in the Liturgy, the institution of which we celebrate on Holy Thursday evening.  St. Ignatius of Antioch says:

“I have no desire for corruptible food or for the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God that is the flesh of Jesus Christ, of David’s seed, and I want his blood as my drink that is love incorruptible.”  (Ignatius Of Antioch & Polycarp Of Smyrna: A New Translation and Theological Commentary, Kindle Loc. 2202-3)

Christ offers Himself up to become the Bread of Life.

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. . . .  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”  (J0hn 6:51-56)

Previous: Holy Wednesday 2016

Next:   Holy Friday 2016

Holy Thursday (2015)

Christianity is a religion of both anticipation and fulfillment. The Old Testament anticipates the New. Our life in the Church anticipates our life in the Kingdom of God which is to come.

“When the disciples asked Christ where they should prepare the Passover meal, they were of course talking about the Jewish Passover. And that was what they prepared. ‘Whereas our Passover, the Christian Passover, has been prepared by Christ. And He has not only prepared it, but He Himself has become the Passover.’ At the Last Supper, Christ celebrated both the Jewish and the Christian Passover, ‘both the Passover that was the type and the Passover that was the reality. Christ was doing exactly what an artist does when on the same canvas he first draws an outline and puts in the shading, and then adds the actual colors. At the very same table, He both sketched out the Passover that was a type and added in the true Passover.’ (St. John Chrysostom)”   (Hiermonk Gregorios, THE DIVINE LITURGY: A COMMENTARY IN THE LIGHT OF THE FATHERS, p 3)

God had placed the first humans He created in a garden filled with luscious fruits to be eaten at will. Food was thus given as a way for us to commune with our Creator. At the last supper, we see fruit – the grape – now crushed into wine – being transfigured into the Blood of Christ.   The world crushes the grape to make wine; Christ uses the wine to restore us to health.   Food becomes communion with God again.

“Before Christ was crucified, He celebrated the Divine Liturgy (c.f. Luke 22:19-20) – the remembrance of His Passion on the Cross. And He commanded us to celebrate it in the same way: to recall those things that seem ‘to betoken weakness, namely the Cross, the Passion and death’.   Why, we may ask, when Christ said, ‘This is my Body, this is my Blood’, did He not add ‘…which raised the dead, which healed lepers’, but only ‘…which is broken for you, which is poured out for your sake’? Why does He not recall His miracles, but rather His Passion? ‘Because the Passion was more necessary than the miracles… His Passion is the very cause of our salvation…. Whereas the miracles took place in order that it might be believed that the Lord is truly the Savior.’ (St. Nicholas Cabasilas) Miracles are a confirmation of Christ’s divinity; the holy Passion offers us salvation and Christ the Savior.” (Hiermonk Gregorios, THE DIVINE LITURGY: A COMMENTARY IN THE LIGHT OF THE FATHERS, p 72)

Salvation gives not just sanity to our minds, or eternity to our souls, it brings healing to our bodies as well. And not only to our bodies, but all of creation is transformed by the death and resurrection of Christ through whom the world was created and redeemed.

The New Covenant of the Mystical Supper

Certainly the highlight of Holy Thursday is the institution of the Mystical Supper by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, in the current liturgical practice of Orthodoxy, the Vespers-Liturgy of Thursday evening is sometimes de-emphasized and the service is often relegated to a more minor role in the spiritual life of a parish.  I’m guessing this occurred in the years or centuries in which Holy Communion was de-emphasized in the weekly life of Orthodox Christians.  As piety made Communion less frequent, the significance of the Vespers-Liturgy of Holy Thursday also waned.  Since people weren’t going to Communion anyway, Matins of Holy Friday and the drama of the events of the crucifixion replaced in piety the celebration of the institution of the Eucharist and the participation of the faithful in the Mystical Supper of Christ.

The Eucharist like the sacraments of Baptism or Unction is a way for us to actually participate in the saving grace of the incarnation of the Word of God in Christ Jesus.  The profundity of this saving event cannot be over emphasized.  It is somewhat sad that we replace the reception of the Word of God in the Eucharist with only hearing of the Word in the Gospel lessons when in our parish celebration of Holy Week we focus on the Matins of Holy Friday rather than on the Vespers-Liturgy.  It doesn’t seem quite Orthodox to me.  We have our icons to “look at”, but the Divine Liturgy of the Church takes us beyond just “looking” and beyond a re-enactment or drama to actual participation in the Body and Blood of the incarnate God.  It is my hope and prayer that some day all of Orthodoxy will again make the Vespers-Liturgy the main liturgical focus of Holy Thursday evening.

We can meditate on the Mystical Supper of Christ and our participation in the incarnation of the Word by considering the “Prayer of Joseph the Visionary” from the Syriac Orthodox tradition.  The ancient Syriac Fathers composed poems to express their prayers and sermons.  In them we find beauty and we encounter their efforts to take us beyond the literalness of words into the mystery which is salvation in Christ the Lord.

May my mind travel inwards

towards the hiddenness of your sacrifice,

Just as you have travelled out into the open

and been conjoined to your Mysteries.

The Christian life is a sojourn – we are always traveling toward the Kingdom of Heaven.  Prayer, charity, fasting, scripture reading, service, ministry, evangelism and all that we do as Christians is movement, journeying toward God.  We move, we sojourn, even when standing still in prayer.   So the first stanza reminds us that prayer itself is a sojour: our mind/heart/soul are moving toward the kingdom.  In prayer we approach the Mystical Supper of Christ.  We are going to receive the Bread and Wine in which the incarnate God is mystically hidden, and also revealed.   Christ, God’s own Son, journeyed from His throne in the Kingdom to His incarnate life of earth.  He crossed every barrier that might separate God from humanity, to come to us and to unite us to the Triune God.

And now, when your Spirit descends from heaven

upon your Mysteries,

may I ascend in spirit from earth to heaven.

 Joseph in his prayer sees the movement in the Liturgy as occurring in both directions: from Heaven (God) to earth and also in each of us our minds traverse the spiritual realms to enter into heaven.  “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).  The Liturgy is always movement, drawing us ever closer to God and the Eternal Kingdom.

At this time

when your power is mingled in with the bread,

may my life be commingled

with your spiritual life.

At this moment

when the wine is changed and becomes your blood,

may my thoughts be inebriated

with the commixture of your love.

 In Joseph’s prayer, it is not only the Bread and Wine which are transformed by the Liturgy.  Indeed they do become the Body and Blood of Christ – God’s power mixing in with things of earth and transfiguring them.   But simultaneously with God entering into the Bread and Wine, Joseph prays that God may also enter into him and into his own spiritual life.   It is not just the Bread and Wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ, but we, the community of believers also are transformed into the Body of Christ.  We want God’s incarnate presence not only in the Eucharist but in our own lives, bodies, minds and souls.    Holy Thursday commemorates Christ initiating this most miraculous change of the things of earth, including ourselves, becoming the things of Heaven.  So Joseph’s prayer continue with these most marvelous words and images:

May my body be purified by you

of every image and form here on earth,

and may my thoughts be cleansed by you,

and my limbs be sanctified by you;

may my understanding shine out,

and may my mind be illumined by you.

May my person become a holy temple for you;

may I be aware in my whole being of your majesty.

May I become a womb for you in secret;

then do you come and dwell in me by night

and I will receive you openly,

taking delight spiritually

in the Holy of Holies of my thoughts.

Then shall I take delight in your Body and your Blood

in my limbs.

(THE SYRIAC FATHERS ON PRAYER AND THE SPIRITUAL LIFE, pp 356-359)

All of these things are what we commemorate on Holy Thursday as we celebrate the Vespers-Liturgy and bring to mind the mystical supper of Christ in that upper room.  We as disciples are called into this same experience that the original Twelve had.

This morning, I was at the London Correctional Institution to give Holy Communion to some inmates there.  We recited together one of the hymns of Holy Thursday:

Come, O faithful, let us enjoy the Master’s Hospitality: the banquet of immortality.  In the upper chamber with uplifted minds, let receive the exalted words of the Word, whom we magnify.

The Master’s Hospitality extends throughout the world, even into prisons, and into Hell itself.  The banquet of immortality was served in a prison today, and the cell became the upper chamber with Christ present.  The One Who descends into Hell, fills also the prison cell in which the faithful gather, and He fills the hearts and minds of each disciple.  Such are the miracles and grace of our Holy Thursday commemoration of the Mystical Supper of Christ.

I will add one more idea, somewhat related to the above, but the power and importance of the Holy Thursday Liturgy continues to resonate in my heart so I want to add this about Christ’s initiating the mystical supper with His disciples on the day before He is sacrificed on the cross.

In Psalm 78:24-25 we read that “God rained down upon them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels…”  John repeats this line in his Gospel in John 6:31.   But, it is interesting to note that while the Fathers found so many typologies in the Old Testament prefiguring Christ, a number of them did not see the story in Exodus of God feeding the Israelites manna in the wilderness as a typology or prefiguring of Holy Communion.  Jean Danielou, for example, says that for Origen in the 2nd Century:

“Manna is not a type of the Eucharist.  It is the bread for the imperfect, those still going forward and needing instructors.  . . . The bread of the Promised Land is the type of the Eucharist and the true food for those who are perfected.”

Origen goes on to say :

“’Hence it is written in the same Gospel: Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead (John 6:49): if anyone eateth of this bread he shall live forever.’ For the manna, though it was given by God, yet was bread of travel … bread supplied to those still under discipline, well fitted for those under tutors and governors.  But the bread Joshua managed to get from corn cut in the country, in the land of promise, others having labored and his disciples reaping—that bread was more full of life, distributed as it was to those who, for their perfection, were able to receive the inheritance of their fathers.”

The Eucharist in the minds of the early Church Fathers was not like the manna in that manna was a special bread supplied by God to sustain the Israelites on their sojourn.  But the manna did not continue forever.  For once the Israelites crossed the Jordan River they began to eat and enjoy the bread of the harvest of the Promised Land.  It is this bread which Joshua provided them in the Promised Land.  This is the bread which prefigures the Eucharist: it is not the bread of the sojourn but the bread of the Kingdom.  They bread which signifies that we have entered into Heaven and have reached the goal of the long sojourn on earth.

Holy Thursday is the day upon which we celebrate this new bread of the Kingdom which causes us to live forever.

Great and Holy Thursday

“We must not forget that this commemoration is a commandment. At the Last Supper, when Christ imparted the mystery of His Body and Blood to His disciples, He commanded them to continue to ‘do this’ in commemoration and declarations of Him and His New Covenant with man.  […] 

This is the meaning and purpose of prophecy in the New Testament: to utter things which are eternally true and therefore eternally significant.  […]     As the cross was the commandment given to the Son for the redemption of the world, so when God gives us the commandment to ‘do this’ and we fulfil it, we are assimilated into the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of His Son.” (Archimandrite Zacharias, Remember Thy First Love (Revelation 2:4-5) The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life in the Theology of Elder Sophrony, pgs. 214-216)

Holy Week: A Lesson in Ministry and Service to Others

While there are many and diverse themes running through the hymns of Holy Week, one theme that may get lost because we focus on the events in Christ’s last week of life on earth leading to His crucifixion is the call to us to imitate Christ in service to others.  While we find emotionally powerful meditating on how Christ’s suffering saves ME, the hymns speak to us about what it means to be a disciple, a Christian, a follower of Christ, namely to love the other.  The crucifixion is not about self love or saving myself, it is about self sacrifice for the salvation of others.   Christ actually said very little to us about forming sentimental or emotional attachments to or fixations on His life or His suffering.  He does however at the Last Supper wrap himself in the towel of a servant, wash His disciple’s feet and then tell us to imitate Him in serving others.  This is a major part of Holy Week, and at one point some considered foot washing to be a sacrament in the Church.  It is a sacrament, which like baptism, is lived out daily far beyond the bounds of the liturgical ritual.

Consider for example the Holy Tuesday Aposticha hymn:

COME, FAITHFUL,

LET US WORK ZEALOUSLY FOR THE MASTER,

FOR HE DISTRIBUTES WEALTH TO HIS SERVANTS.

LET EACH OF US ACCORDING TO HIS ABILITY

INCREASE HIS TALENT OF GRACE:

LET ONE BE ADORNED IN WISDOM THROUGH GOOD WORKS;

LET ANOTHER CELEBRATE A SERVICE IN SPLENDOR.

THE ONE DISTRIBUTES HIS WEALTH TO THE POOR;

THE OTHER COMMUNICATES THE WORD TO THOSE UNTAUGHT.

THUS WE SHALL INCREASE WHAT HAS BEEN ENTRUSTED TO US,

AND, AS FAITHFUL STEWARDS OF GRACE,

WE SHALL BE ACCOUNTED WORTHY OF THE MASTER’S JOY.

MAKE US WORTHY OF THIS, CHRIST OUR GOD,

IN YOUR LOVE FOR MANKIND.

The hymn calls to mind Christ’s Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) in which the servants are expected to do something with the gifts, wealth and resources the master gave them.  The hymn also ties in St. Paul’s discussions on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-14).  Thus in the midst of Holy Week, we are reminded of our responsibility as Christians to serve one another, the Church and the world itself. We are not called merely to contemplate the life and work of Christ – we are called to imitate Christ through the work that we do to His glory.  We are called to use the gifts and wealth that God has bestowed upon us in service of others.  That is a lesson of Holy Week that can be lost while we are so busy thinking about what Christ has done for me. (We would do well also to remember Christ’s parable of the Last Judgment which we read as part of our preparation for keeping Lent).   Consider the Holy Thursday Matins hymn known as the IKOS:

Let us all approach the mystical table in fear

and receive the Bread with pure souls;

and let us stay with the Master so that we may see

how He washes His disciples’ feet and wipes them with a towel. 

Let us do as we have seen Him do,

submitting to one another and washing one another’s feet,

for Christ Himself thus commanded His disciples.

But the servant and deceiver Judas did not take heed.

[Take special note:  Judas did not take heed to the lessons being offered by Christ at the Last Supper!  Certainly we are being warned not to  be like or imitate Judas.  We are to imitate our LORD Jesus Christ and be a servant instead of being self-serving.]

The liturgical commemoration of the Mystical Supper and the washing of the disciples’ feet in the hymns does not just focus on the historical events but calls us to imitate Christ in becoming servants one to another.  The hymns remind us not to get lost in the beauty of the services or in contemplating past history, but to learn the lessons offered to us by Christ about being servants and to get up and imitate Him in our relationship to the Church and our fellow Christians.  [Unfortunately, in current Orthodox liturgical practice and in many Orthodox parishes the commemoration of the Mystical supper and the foot washing (done at Holy Thursday Vespers) is given secondary status as the pious focus has become the crucifixion of Christ as commemorated in the Holy Friday Matins service – a piety which seems more Western and Protestant than Orthodox.  It is Western piety, particularly Protestant, which places almost exclusive emphasis on the crucifixion of Christ as being the act of salvation.  This emphasis is true to Western Christian theology’s focus on justification and the substitutionary death of Christ, but totally downplays the incarnation and ignores salvation as the union of God with humanity.  It turns a blind eye and deaf ear to the theology of the incarnation, to sacramental theology and to salvation as deification.  But I digress.]

One final hymn from the Aposticha of Holy Thursday:

INSTRUCTING YOUR DISCIPLES IN THE MYSTERY, LORD,

YOU SAID TO THEM:

MY BELOVED, SEE THAT NO FEAR SEPARATES YOU FROM ME.

THOUGH I SUFFER, IT IS FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD.

LET ME NOT BE A CAUSE OF SCANDAL TO YOU.

I CAME, NOT TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE,

TO GIVE MYSELF FOR THE REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD.

IF YOU ARE MY FRIENDS, THEN IMITATE ME.

LET THE FIRST AMONG YOU BE THE LAST.

LET THE MASTER BE LIKE THE SERVANT.

ABIDE IN ME AND BEAR FRUIT, FOR I AM THE VINE OF LIFE.

Christ the True Vine

The hymn calls us to imitate Christ in servant leadership, in humility, in bearing spiritual fruit (see also my blog Hierarchical Power: Self-Appointed Tyranny? Which likewise looks at some hymns from Holy Week).   The hymns do discuss the historical events of Holy Week, but don’t direct our attention to the past, but rather tell us Holy Week teaches us how to live in the present: as imitators of Christ.  Sometimes Orthodox are tempted  always and only to look to the past, or to look to the future Kingdom of Heaven.  But our hymns tell us not to be so heavenly minded so as to be of no earthly good, as Oliver Wendell Holmes quipped.  Rather we are to live the divine presence today in our lives as we related to others.  We are called not just to meditate on Christ’s life, but to imitate it.  Tradition is not a focus on how things were done in the past, but is a living Tradition – it tells us how to live in the present to prepare ourselves for the future.

St. Justin the Martyr on the Eucharist

On Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper, the Mystical Supper, which Christ held with His disciples.  This is the institution of the Holy Eucharist, our union with the Incarnate Lord.

“This food we call Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing [Baptism] for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s work took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer which comes from him, from which flesh and blood and nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”  (St.Justin the Martyr 150 A.D. in Alkiviadis C. Calivas’ book Essays in Theology and Liturgy Volume Three – Aspects of Orthodox Worship, pg.164)

Holy Thursday (2010) Sermon Notes

Tonight we commemorate the Mystical Supper – the last meal Christ ate with His disciples before His death and Resurrection.  We call it the Mystical Supper because Christ gave the bread and wine of the Passover Meal new meaning and importance by declaring we are to eat this meal in memory of Him, and by saying the bread and wine have mystically become His Body and His Blood.  We tonight enter into that story as the other disciples of Christ – we too are invited to the Mystical Supper, to the table with the other disciples, invited by our Lord Jesus Christ.   We are not simply remembering a 2000 year old historical event, nor are we merely re-enacting it.   Rather we are “remembering” the event.  How can we “remember” something we weren’t there to witness?   Because the remembering of the Liturgy places us in the event.  We are receiving this Body and Blood of Christ with the first apostles, not in the upper room, but in the Kingdom of Heaven.  We join the Communion of the Apostles whose icon is ever before in this church.  We are receiving the Body and Blood of the risen Lord – we already know the resurrection, we are not pretending to go back to a time before the resurrection.    Time is not of the essence in the mystical celebration of an historical event.   We enter into the Gospel story fully knowing the end of the story.  We know what the disciples did not know, but we don’t go back in time to a date in which we too don’t know that is to happen.  The Gospel writers wrote the story years after the Resurrection and the Gospel narrative assumes we have a knowledge of the Resurrection.   The Gospel writers, the Gospel we read, and we ourselves all see the story of the Mystical Supper from the vantage point of Knowing Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord.    The Gospel narrative didn’t end with the crucifixion of Christ, nor was it written before the Resurrection was known and proclaimed.   So we see the story, hear the story and participate in the Last supper as believers in the Resurrection.  The only Christ we know is the Risen CLord.   We know what even the chosen 12 Disciples did not know on the night that Jesus was given up, or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world.  Our faith in Jesus Christ risen from the dead brings us to the same table as the original 12 chosen disciples.    Our faith brings us into the Gospel story and places us in the presence of all of these who have believed.  Our communion is not only with Christ, but also with His chosen 12, with Mary His mother, and with all the martyrs and saints who have believed throughout history.

We are not re-enacting the events of 2000 years ago.  We are not trying to walk along and experience what Christ experienced, or what the disciples experienced.

Christ for us is always the RISEN LORD.   We are not searching for the historical Jesus, for we believe in the RISEN Lord.  The Gospel lessons were written by those who already knew and believed in Christ risen from the dead.

We view all of the events of Christ’s life from the vantage point of the resurrection, of God’s victory over sin, death, Satan and all evil.

We don’t pretend that the suffering of Christ is unbearable.  For we know the Gospel Story of Christ through our faith  in Who He IS, not through who what the disciples didn’t understand of failed to believe.   Though it is true that our reaction to the Risen Christ may be the same incredulity and misunderstanding that the disciples themselves demonstrated. 

We now stand with all those who believe in the resurrection of Christ.  We stand tonight with those who know who Jesus is – the Christ, the Son of God, risen from the dead.   The details in the 4 Gospel accounts do differ at points, but the faith of the Evangelists in Jesus Christ as Lord, risen from the dead, is one and the same in all 4 Gospels.   Our experience is of this same Jesus Christ.  The details of what happened are not quite as important as the truth about who Jesus is, and who we all receive into our hearts and lives when we believe in Him, when we hear proclaimed the Gospel, and when we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist.

Great & Holy Thursday (2010)

COMMUNING WITH CHRIST

The Master saith, My time is near at hand, with thee I make the pasch with My disciples.”  

The Communion of the Apostles

“With my disciples…” because the Master’s pasch is always social. It is never only individual. Even if it is a question of that invisible Last Supper which Jesus can celebrate at any moment in the upper room of my soul, this room must remain open to all of Christ’s disciples. If I am with Jesus, I have to be with Peter, Andrew, James, John, Paul and all the apostles, and all those who either in past centuries or today, have been or are the Savior’s disciples. Jesus speaks of His disciples in these terms: “Go, tell My brethren…” I cannot isolate myself from the Savior’s brethren without separating myself from Him. I must commune with them in the same faith, with the same affection. 

(A Monk of the Eastern Church, Jesus: A Dialog with the Savior)

On Holy Thursday, we also commemorate the Lord Jesus Christ humbling himself to become a servant to His disciples – washing their feet.  He taught  us to imitate Him in this way of love, servant leadership (John 13:1-16).

“Let the rulers of nations exercise lordship over them, but let the rulers of the Church be to it as servants”…In recognizing in the Church the existence of power other than that of love, one diminishes or even denies grace, for this would be to diminish or deny the common charism of love without which there could be no ministry.  ((Nicholas Afanasiev, The Church of the Holy Spirit, pg. 275)

Christ came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)