Holy Thursday

He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.

At the last ritual meal which Jesus shared with his friends he threw himself into it with such passion that he became it. The symbols of bread and wine, common fruits of the earth and staples of the daily local meals, occasioned both nourishment and celebration.

When we celebrate what nourishes us we express deep and wholehearted contentment with what is. We don’t dream about anything else beyond our grasp or project our hopes for happiness into the future. And, if we go further to share equally and equitably all we have, we make the distinctive human happiness of true fellowship. It is a contentment that is both embodied and transcendent. In that happiness we feel the anxiety of the human heart transcended, with all its fears and cravings, in an ultimate, intimate reassurance that we are secure in the love of the people we are with.

As he performed the simple ritual that identified his own people and culture, the crusty bread and table wine became all he felt and all that he was. What more can we say to those we love than ‘I give you my body and all it means about who I am for you’? In this transmission of self, in a ritual made mystically real by the whole-heartedness of its focused intensity, the local becomes universal. The event bounded by a particular moment moves into an eternal present. A sacrament.

After that first last supper the successors of the apostles continued the transmission. The agape meal was born. In a reciprocal act of love and sharing of self the communal meal became a replay in real time of that transmission of self which transfigures time in space. Somehow or other it later became a source of pride and division, a clinging to a protected identity, rather than a sharing of self. Jesus gave the bread to Judas. Later we were told that we had to be in a state of grace to receive it. The intimate meal became a hierarchical event. The medicine became a placebo for those who thought they were healthy.

Meditation restores the meaning of this meal that celebrates what nourishes us. The presence in the food on the altar is the same as the food of the presence in our heart. The inner and the outer become one. We are healed because the presence is real.

The meal is the key to the meaning of the Cross.

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