On this Holy Thursday:
Let us pray to the Lord,
O you whose love for us is eternal and unchanging: Today, as your Son reclined at the table with his chosen friends, he gave them the mysteries of his life-giving love for us, to be present forever on the altars of his holy churches throughout the world. Now, as we celebrate the institution of these mysteries, we entreat you to dispel all doubt and hesitation from our souls. Strengthen our faith that we may live and believe without apathy and indifference, without confusion and weariness, and unhampered by discord and divisiveness. Let us, rather, share in these mysteries today and always, finding in them the pledge and seal of your love for us and the everflowing fountain of new life and unity.
By the grace and mercy and love for us of your only Son, with whom you are blest, together with your all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit: now and forever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On this day, we remember (anamnesis) the Lord Himself uttering the words we hear at every Divine Liturgy: “Take, eat, this is My Body…” and “Drink of this, all of you, this is My Blood…” And we remember that betrayal is easy when we forget!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 26:21-39; Luke 22:43-44:
And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.” Now as they were eating, 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. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter declared to him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples. Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Our Lord’s anguish comes when He confronts the awesome task before Him AND it flows from knowing the consequences for those who forget Him in His time of grief. This is why our memory has to be rooted in the memory of the Church! It is memory that protects our hearts from betrayal, and it is forgetfulness that makes betrayal easy!
Memory for us humans is much more profound than a mere recalling of an old event. We can actually “rejoin” the event we recall, especially if we love the people that were in the event we are recalling. And that’s why we are called to remember!
Today, let us move beyond the temptation to reduce our faith to a mere recitation of old words and do what we can all do if we will: join our Lord in the Upper Room as one of His disciples and take from His undefiled hands the bread and wine transfigured by grace into the only real food we will ever need. Allow this reality to change the way you think about the Eucharist and watch how this change changes you! And don’t FORGET!
Blessed Holy Thursday to you and may you be strengthened to finish this spiritual marathon well and more like the Lord Who loves you so.
P.S. Taking the Bread into his hands, the betrayer stretches them forth secretly and receives the price of Him that, with His own hands, fashioned man. And Judas, the servant and deceiver, remained incorrigible. Kontakion of Holy Thursday