Yesterday’s first reading, on the feast of Corpus Christi, offered a type of the Eucharist, the desert ritual foreshadowing the Sacramental order celebrated in countless churches in a wide array of places across the world.
Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, ‘We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.’
Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he directed certain young Israelites to offer holocausts and to immolate bullocks to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Half of the blood Moses took up and put into basins, the other half he cast on the altar.
And taking the Book of the Covenant he read it to the listening people, and they said, ‘We will observe all that the Lord has decreed; we will obey.’ Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This’ he said ‘is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules.’
In both cases a people comes together determined on responding faithfully and well to the commands of the law, commands which offer them life.
Israel’s covenant begins with the sacrifice of cattle and the sprinkling of the altar (representing God and his people) with the animals’ blood. Then the people hear again the Law and as they re-commit themselves to obedience the remainder of the blood is cast over them.
Mass is somewhat less ‘messy’! Also we begin with a reading of scripture and then move to the sacrifice, or so it seems. But more truly we too gather in the wake of a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Calvary. The blood has already been shed and offered to the Father for the salvation of the world. We are reminded of this by the fact we gather, normatively, on the 3rd day following that day on which that Precious Blood was shed: we gather on the 1st day of the week, the Day of Resurrection, the Lord’s Day.
The mystery of the Eucharist has begun long before our particular and local gathering. But the blood shed, we gather to be revived by its being shared with us. regrouped, renewed, by the word of God , and then to receive the blood of Christ, not sprinkled on us, but drunk by us, ingested, for our refreshment and enervation.
And in this ritual of word and Blood we recommit ourselves to the Lord whose commitment to us never wavers.
- What aspect of your communion with the Lord most impresses you at the present time.
Blood of the Redeemer, Giovanni Bellini. National Gallery, London.