The Gospel for Sunday, Corpus Christi, reminds us of the Passover context in which Eucharist was, from the first, understood and interpreted. Scholars offer their various ‘takes’ on which account is most historically accurate – that of John or of the Synoptics. But in both accounts the Passover looms large. The Eucharist is about freedom, it is about being saved from slavery.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.
And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’
After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.
Passover is an annual feast. Eucharist from the beginning seems to have been especially a once a week event, the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day. Now the Eucharist is a spiritual accompaniment to most any day, to most any occasion.
There is a virtue in that, but also a responsibility. We need to raise to the occasion and allow the Eucharist to be food for our mission. We are set free for a purpose, and that purpose is not only our own well-being. We live to help recover the Kingdom and to help our brothers and sisters to enter in.
Mosaic of the Glorified Lamb of Sacrifice, Abbey of the Dormition, Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.