By Hugh McNichol
The celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday evening marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum. During this liturgical celebration we recall the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper and de facto recall the institution of Holy Orders as well. For us Catholics this evening event begins recounting the events that will lead to the Cross on Good Friday, and thankfully the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
However the focus on the Eucharistic sacrifice, the partaking of the Eucharistic Bread is the event that keenly shows our Catholic identity and union. While there are various events throughout the liturgical year that recount Jesus' life, it is the Last Supper that clearly marks Jesus' institution of the Eucharist as central to our faith. In no other religious practice, symbols so simple as bread and wine are exalted into the Body of Christ. This Eucharistic meal is a graced and special moment.
When we reenact the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper we are mystically united with all of our faithful brothers and sisters throughout the world. We are united in time and space, past, present and future with the Paschal Mystery of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. As members of our faithful Catholic community we are part of the larger and global community that transcends the limitations of our earthly existence, the Body of Christ. During our observance of the Mass of the Lord's Supper we should all take a moment to ponder the intensity of Christ's love and sacrifice on the Cross, that it should unite all of us over time and space.
The Eucharistic Mystery is truly participation in divine life as well as our earthly bond as humans and believers to one another. Frequently in the chaotic world that sometimes fails to reflect Jesus and His love, we are called to be witnesses of the Gospel message. Our participation in a celebration of the Eucharist not only offers us a vehicle, through which we bring Christ to the world, but also nourishes, unites and restores all of us with sacred food. Simple forms of bread and wine transform the universe and nourish both our human hopes and theological hungers.
On Holy Thursday evening we remember Jesus' actions at the Last Supper and join each other in prayer and contemplation of His redemptive sacrifice. Eucharist for us not only offers us a participation in the Last Supper, brings us to Calvary and to the Resurrection, it transforms our ontological existence as participants in God's Kingdom. We might think of such transformation each time we receive the Eucharistic Lord and recall the true intensity of Jesus' love in our great sacrament.
We should celebrate our Eucharistic assembly with the same fervor that accompanies us to significant human events, such as weddings, graduations and the like. There is no more important an event than our reception of the Risen and Eucharistic Lord.As we develop such fervor, we will then be able to proclaim loudly and clearly on Easter Sunday morning,…"The Lord is Risen from the tomb, alleluia, alleluia!"
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