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Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday - The Fourth Cup

The Jewish Passover
and the
Catholic Eucharist
 Part 4

Good Friday 
The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ From the Cross
And the Fourth Cup

On the cross Jesus utters seven short phrases. To find all seven, you must read all four gospels since none of the evangelists record all seven phrases. And it is the fifth and sixth utterances of Jesus where I found my answer to the fourth cup missing from the Last Supper.

A model of compassion, Jesus forgives his executioners, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus opens the gates of heaven to the good thief, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42)

In the gospel of John, Jesus gives John, who represents all Christians, his mother. We all become the spiritual children of Our Blessed Mother Mary. “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27)

In Matthew and Mark the words of Jesus are recorded in his usual dialect, Aramaic, “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34) which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? These are the words of Psalm 22:1 a psalm of lament.

When Jesus arrived at Golgotha, before he was crucified, it is recorded that he was offered “wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.” (Mark 15:23) Jesus still has not drunk the fourth cup. The time had not arrived. But now in order to fulfill scripture, as Jesus hung on the cross “knowing that all was now finished [he] said, “I thirst.” (John 19:28) Is it possible that Jesus after all that he has endured on the way of the cross and his crucifixion has not thirsted until now? At this point in his suffering, his lungs are filling with liquid and he is slowly, excruciatingly suffocating, unable to get even a shallow breath, still he speaks in order to fulfill scripture.

It is recorded that a sponge was filled with wine vinegar and placed on a hyssop branch and held to his mouth. (John 19:29, Matthew 27:48, Mark 15:36) Hyssop, the same kind of branch that was commanded in Exodus 12:22 to be used by the Israelites when applying the blood of the lamb to the lintel and two doorposts. The Israelites had to mark three parts of their door with blood to be spared from death. Jesus The Lamb of God was nailed to the cross with three nails to spare us from death. When the vinegar wine was lifted up to him on a hyssop branch, Jesus drank from the fourth cup. The Passover Meal was consummated, finished and completed.

Once Jesus had received the wine vinegar, he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30) Jesus has just closed the Passover Meal he began Thursday night. The meal is completed. Well, actually this time the Passover Meal of the old covenant has been fulfilled, now we begin a new covenant with the Lamb of God offered as the perfect sacrifice. “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20)

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46)

The Last Supper celebration of Passover and Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary and the Holy Eucharist are all one piece. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God, who is Jesus, begins in the upper room at the Passover Meal. At the Passover Meal Jesus instituted the new Covenant in his own blood which ended at Calvary. In other words, this sacrifice Jesus began in the upper room is the institution of the Eucharist which ended at Calvary. But actually it is not over.

The sacrifice that Jesus instituted is perpetual and continues to this day in heaven, where he appears as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” (Revelation 5:6) There is no time with God in heaven, and that is good news. We are still in need of this saving act of Jesus. All of these events, Passover and Calvary, are present to us now at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is celebrated as a memorial done in remembrance of Jesus, every few seconds every day, all over the world, in many different languages.

God’s ultimate goal is to restore “communion” with us, to establish a relationship, a fellowship with his creation, us. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 “For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil [vice], but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth [virtue].” We are to celebrate the festival by eating the Lamb just as the Hebrew people were commanded to eat the lamb. Where do we eat the Lamb? At the Eucharistic Table, in Communion, at Mass.

So this sacrifice continues in Heaven as Jesus offers Himself perpetually to the Father for our salvation. Since God wishes no one to be lost, this will continue until all of God’s creations have been given ample, patient opportunity to Ask, Seek and Knock. (Matthew 7:7-8)

The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist

"At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection:  a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.  The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.  For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch" (Pesach in Hebrew).  (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1323 - 1324)

The Eucharist celebrated at each Catholic Mass is an extension of the fulfillment of the feast of the Passover, Jesus is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29,36)  Jesus has replaced the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament. "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."

For another explination of the Eucharist as an extension of the fulfillment of the feast of Passover see Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio of The Crossroads Initiative essay, Holy Thursday The Eucharist:  The Body of Christ?

Soon it will be Easter Sunday
Come Lord Jesus,
send us your mercy,
renew the face of the earth.

Easter Blessings from Lynn's Timeless Treasures

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