Today is Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday. The day when Christ celebrated the Passover with His disciples–the Last Supper. Tonight He instituted what may be the most sacred of the sacraments–Holy Communion, the Eucharist. He took bread, took wine, and declared them His body and blood, the things by which we are saved.
This year I read an absolutely amazing book about the Last Supper and how it didn’t really end until Christ died on the cross, called The Fourth Cup by Scott Hahn. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in that Passover meal and the new covenant and communion. But it began by touching on something we all have to know and remember that comes to us from the days of Moses.
The Passover was not “remembered” every year. It was REpresented. It was lived anew. The words said, the rituals, the tradition was not just meant to teach or instruct, it was telling each person at each meal, “You were there too. We were all there. This is what God did for YOU and for ME and for US as a people.” You can see that in the words of Moses himself, not only when he first hands down the law, but when he is giving it again to the people about to enter the promised land.
Those people were not the same people who had left Egypt–that’s very clear. Every single member over twenty years old of that original generation had to die in the next forty years, so a fresh people, a people who had not doubted, had not worshipped the golden calf, could be the ones to take the land. But when Moses is giving his final address, he wording is so very pointed. When you were there, he says time and again. When God did this for you. You saw the plagues.
They didn’t–not literally. But as he speaks those words, he’s teaching them that our God is not bound by time. That our God is king of all creation, all ages. Our Lord did His work for them just as surely as for their parents and grandparents. It needs to be more than a memory–it needs to be the reality, ever present in their hearts and minds. They need to be there. They need to know it’s more than words, that by taking part in that ceremony, they are in fact living it with their ancestors. It isn’t just a representation, it’s a RE-presentation. It’s happening again for them…or rather, it’s drawing them back to that original happening. The event isn’t repeating, the participants are instead defying space and time and partaking of the original. This is the odd reality that Moses speaks to the new generation, and it was the understanding carried forth from that day all the way to the day of Jesus and beyond.
This is the same lesson we need to learn when it comes to Christ’s Passover. When we eat the bread and drink the cup of the new covenant, we aren’t just doing it in memory–we’re doing it knowing that the same truth that saved the people alive in His day, watching Him on the cross, saves us too. Because His work is not bound by time or space, and each occasion of the Eucharist is, like the Passover was for the Jews, a REpresenting. It isn’t happening again, but it is pulling us back into that first time it happened. We are partaking of the original, the one and only, the complete and perfect sacrifice.
That is the miracle of our God. The miracle we rely on when we place our faith in a Man who lived two thousand years ago but somehow saved us. The miracle we embrace when we said He did the work of salvation “once and for all”–that doesn’t mean one finite action that began and ended, like our idiom might indicate. It means once, forever, for all of us. It means it’s continually working, because we are continually partaking, because it’s an action outside of the confines of time.
This is the cup of Christ. The work of the cross. The cup of salvation poured out as His blood. The cup we are invited to drink from, not so that we remember but so that we become part of it. We become the people escaping Egypt; we become the people entering the Promised Land; we become the disciples watching from beneath the cross; we become the women at the empty tomb.
We become His.