Liturgical Color: White
No last will and testament has been as heeded as Christ’s
From the moment Christ first uttered the words at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening, the Church has never ceased to be faithful to them: “Do this in memory of me.” These words of a man about to die, if not a dying man, were a commandment more than a request, marching orders more than a mission statement. And everyone in that upper room understood exactly what He meant. No last will and testament of any man has ever been as faithfully fulfilled as these last words of Christ. What Christ asked to be done has been done, and continues to be done, every day, in every country, throughout the world, by every single priest who stands at an altar and recites the words of consecration in persona Christi.
The world has never moved on from Christ and never will. He is not in the world’s rear view mirror. He is here, He is present, He is alive. And in every tight corner of the globe, from a tidy Polish village to a rambling Phillipino city, from a Palestinian monastery hugging a sun-baked cliff to an Argentinian parish in a sprawling suburb, the Mass makes Him real because it is done in memory of Him. Literally every minute of every day, Mass is celebrated across the globe in a ceaseless offering to God the Father. “From the rising of the sun to its setting,” in a thousand tongues, priests bend slightly over their chalices and the white linens covering their altars and carefully repeat a chain of words in a cadence known to all the faithful: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it… Take this all of you, and drink from it…This is my Body… This is my Blood.” No words are more familiar. None! Not Shakespeare’s, not Caesar’s, not Lincoln’s. The everlasting words of the cross-cultural and cross-generational Christ simply have no equal.
If we expect from the Church the sacraments, we will never be disappointed. If we receive from the Church more than the sacraments, we should rejoice. The Last Supper fulfills and completes the Jewish Passover sacrifice ordered by God of Moses and the Jews in Egypt. The Last Supper, at the same time, prefigures in an unbloody way the physical sacrifice Christ would make on the morrow on the hill of Calvary. In the Last Supper, Christ also gives priests the perennial form for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Last Supper, then, is a composite act of Jewish and Christian ritual, of Old and New Testament theology, of historical and spiritual realities all packed into one dense liturgical act which the Church presents anew at every Mass. The Mass is the Christian work of art par excellence. It is the public act which never stops showing. It is the magnet which pulls mankind into thousands of churches every morning, noon, and night.
We do this in memory of Him because God deserves worship as a matter of justice, not charity. We do this in memory of Him because He ordered us to do so. We do this in memory of Him because it prefigures what we will hopefully do in heaven for eternity. And we do this in memory of Him for a thousand million reasons locked in the quiet places of a thousand million hearts: For Jill to come back home. So that Robert survives the war. In thanksgiving for a good husband. So that a pain in the gut not be what it might be. In gratitude for the rain that saved the crops. At a king’s crowning, a convict’s death, or the bond of marriage. For the shocked just after the martyrs’ mangled bodies were dragged over the red sand out of the arena. In thanksgiving because my father did not die of cancer, and in remembrance of my cousin who did. For the fireman who couldn’t find his way out of the building, for the barren woman, for the anniversary of an aged couple, or for the nation on its birthday. There is no end of reasons. Month after month, year after year, century after century, until the sands of time run out, the Lord’s Holy Thursday command echoes over the waters and down the millenia: “Do this in memory of me.”*
Lord Jesus Christ, Your total physical gift of self on Good Friday began internally at the Last Supper. May the faithful often profit from Your priestly ministry by receiving Your body and blood consecrated on Your sacred altars by those who share in Your one priesthood today.
*See “The Shape of the Liturgy” by Dom Gregory Dix for a similar reflection on the Holy Eucharist.
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