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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Thursday: The Last Supper: The Eucharist

Jewish Passover
and the
Catholic Eucharist
Part Two
Holy Thursday: The Last Supper: The Eucharist
April 1, 2010
April 21, 2011
April 5, 2012
March 28, 2013
April 17, 2014
April 2, 2015
March 24, 2016
April 13, 2017
April 29, 2018 

I have read these gospel passages of the Last Supper many times, but after studying the Pesach I read the gospel with a different insight.  I noticed something about the Last Supper meal that I never paid attention to before, the relevance of the four cups of wine.

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus and His Apostles will celebrate the Passover Meal. But it will be different than any other Passover. As Jesus said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16)

The Preparation

“Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7-8) It is clear that the Spring Feasts of Passover (Exodus 12-13; Lev 23:4-5 Num 28:16; Deut 16:1-7) and of Unleavened Bread, the seven days following Passover (Exodus 12-13; Lev 23:6-8; Num 28:17-25; Deut 16:8) were very important to Jesus and his disciples.

In the time of Jesus, the unblemished lamb for the Passover meal was sacrificed in the temple of Jerusalem and the meal took place in someone’s home. Time consuming preparations had to be made. The home had to be free of leaven, side dishes had to be prepared, along with bitter herbs, unleavened bread and four goblets of wine mixed with water had to be available for all who would be present.

Jesus sent Peter and John in to Jerusalem where they would meet “a man carrying a jar of water…[they were to] follow him into the house which he enters.” (Luke 22:10, Mark 14:13) Luke goes on to describe this place as a large upper room that was furnished. It was this place the disciples were to prepare for the Passover meal.

The First Cup of Wine: Sanctification

From my study of the Passover meal, I knew that four cups of wine would be consumed in a traditional order. The first cup, of sanctification and blessing would be poured at the beginning of the celebration, before the washing of the hands and dipping of the bitter herbs. I found no mention of this cup in any of the four gospels, but knew that it must have been consumed before the commencing the celebration.

The Washing of the Feet

John’s Gospel is the only Gospel to record Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, a service normally performed by slaves. Peter does not understand, at first, why Jesus would humble himself this way. Jesus models for his disciples that he “came not to be served but to serve,” and that this service consisted of “[giving] his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

“When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?...If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12-15) Jesus’ entire life was an example of doing for others and service. Furthermore the Lord promises us that if we imitate him we will be blessed. “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17)

Bitterness and Betrayal

“When in the evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me…..He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me.” (Matthew 26:20-23; Mark 14:17-20) “Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25)

The Four Questions

Just as it is a tradition for the eldest or leader at the Passover meal to answer four questions explaining how Moses led his people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, the Gospel of John shows four of Jesus’ disciples asking him questions about salvation and eternal life.

The first question came from Simon Peter, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” (John 13:36)

The second question from Thomas, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:5-6)

The third question was asked by Philip, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?” (John 14:8-10)

The fourth question is from Judas (not Iscariot), “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:22-23)

The Second Cup of Wine: The Cup of Judgment
The people who wrote the Gospels knew the ritual of the Passover Meal. Again I did not find this cup mentioned but I know it was poured right before the tenth plague was announced during the maggid, or telling of the Exodus story. Then Psalm 112 and 113 the Little Hallel would be sung and the cup of wine consumed. This would all be done before proceeding to the main meal.

The Seder Meal

In the Gospel and Matthew and Mark we jump right from the preparation to “While they were eating.” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22) From my new understanding of the Passover meal this would mean that they had already drunk the first and second cup of wine, recited the story of Exodus and sang the Hallel Psalms 112 and 113.

The Gospel of Luke is similar proceeding straight from the preparation to the cryptic words Jesus spoke as “he sat at table,” “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15)

The Third Cup: The Cup of Blessing

Once the meal is concluded a third cup of wine was poured, grace after the meal recited and the cup consumed in a reclining position followed by the singing of the Great Hallel Psalms 114-118. But this night it was different, Jesus made some startling changes in the traditional Passover. It was at this moment that Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist which would serve as a memorial of Christ’s Passover.

Just as the Exodus events were made real and present to the Jews every time they participated in the Passover meal. The sacrifice that Jesus was about to endure for us at the Crucifixion, would be made real and present every time Eucharist was celebrated at the Holy Mass.

Institution of the Eucharist from
Matthew and Mark
“Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-26)

Institution of the Eucharist from Luke

“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:15-20)

After the drinking of the third cup a fourth cup would be poured and consumed signifying the climax of the Passover, bringing it to completion. But this Passover is clearly different, after they drink the third cup of blessing, Matthew and Mark record that they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Did they forget to drink the fourth cup? It would be like a priest skipping over the words of consecration at Mass.

Looking at the passage from Matthew and Mark when Jesus says “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom,” (Matthew 26:29) has Jesus consciously omitted drinking the fourth cup and still completed the Passover meal? Or is it that this Passover meal, Jesus' Last Supper is still to be completed?
To Be Continued in Part 3.

For items related to the Catholic Faith
 please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures

 Insitution of the Eucharist, Joos van Wassenhove
Jesus Washes the Feet of Peter by Ford Maddox Brown
The Last Supper by da Vinci

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