01 April 2010

Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

Why is this night unlike any other night? This is the Passover the Lord. 


From before the foundation of the world, the Ancient of Days knew this Hour and by types and figures prepared the world to understand its meaning. In the garden our first parents fell, and we were promised a woman whose seed would crush the serpent. The fruit of their disobedience was not freedom, but murder, and the blood of Abel cried out for justice. Abram was called out of Ur of the Chaldees to become Abraham, our father in faith, and Melchisedech, the king of righteousness, offered a sacrifice of bread and wine on Mt. Zion. Through Isaac human sacrifice was ended, even as our loving Father prepared us for the sacrificial death of his only Son. Jacob was given twelve sons whose twelve tribes would fill the land of promise. By the blood of a lamb, the children of Israel were freed from slavery in Egypt, and by the flesh of that lamb they were nourished for their journey. This is the Passover of the Lord.


By a pillar of fire they were led through the waters to the holy mountain, and there Moses was given the Law of God to keep the people from returning to slavery – the slavery of sin. In the desert they were fed with the bread of angels, and their thirst was quenched by living water from a rock. In the meeting tent, the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord dwelt in an ark, and the sons of Aaron offered sacrifice for the sins of the people. Elijah and the prophets proclaimed the saving word of the Lord, and revealed the Holy One of Israel as the one, only, living, and true God. David was anointed the shepherd king of God’s people, and Solomon the wise built the Temple in Jerusalem to be the dwelling place on earth of God Most High. Finally, in the fullness of time, John the Baptist, greatest man born of woman, announced the divine glory of the Son of Mary while both men were still babes in the womb and then proclaimed him on Jordan’s bank to be the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is the Passover of the Lord.


During the three years of his public ministry, the Lord Jesus by signs and wonders revealed himself to be the fulfillment and perfection of all the types and figures which came before him. And when the Hour arrived for which he had come into the world, he gathered with the Twelve in the upper room to celebrate the Passover of the Lord. Now instead of shadows, we have the truth; now in place of images, we have the reality. This is the Passover of the Lord. 


In that upper room, the eternal Word gave us his flesh and blood as the medicine of immortality and an everlasting covenant, and to the Twelve he entrusted the sacred power to “do this in memory of me … so that sins may be forgiven.” And along with the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood, he gave us a new commandment: Love one another, as I have loved you. This is the Passover of the Lord. 


These three holy gifts, the Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the Law of Love, are what we celebrate this night, the night he was betrayed, the night for which he came into the world. This is the Passover of the Lord.


Imagine that night. See the upper room. Look into the faces of the Twelve. Behold the nearly unendurable mixture of love and fear, of faith and doubt, of awe and confusion. What were they thinking? How did they feel? Did they comprehend the mysteries being unveiled before them? We are so like them. This is the Passover of the Lord.


Now look at Jesus; see him reclining at table and stooping to wash Peter’s feet. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and Last, the One who is, who was, and who is to come. He is the Son of Mary, and the Son of God. He is the Ancient of Days who called Abraham, and he is the one who gave his Name to Moses: I AM. He is the Word made flesh and the true Lamb of God. This is the Passover of the Lord.


On that night, in that Hour, even as his Passion was at hand, what instructions did he give us through the Twelve? “Love one another, as I have loved you … I have given you an example, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” This is the Law of Love, and through it the Lord Jesus is restoring in us what was obscured by sin; he is making us a new creation and giving us the means of grace: the Word of God and the sacraments of the new and everlasting covenant. He is lifting us up from the degradation of slavery -- slavery to sin -- to the freedom and dignity of the children of God. This is the Passover of the Lord.


Tomorrow we will walk with Jesus in the Way of the Cross and weep for our sins, the sins for which he laid down his life. Tonight, though, we should glory in the cross, for Jesus is our salvation, our life, and our resurrection; through him we are saved and set free.  


Why is this night unlike any other night? This is the Passover of the Lord, and Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast.