Fifth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary
The Last Supper
Most of my preparation for these daily FFF posts happens while I am doing other things, meeting with people (two days of meetings with the priests of the diocese this week), conversations with individuals, working on other projects, visiting, all the normal stuff in the diverse life of the adventure of faith that is diocesan priesthood. All of the stuff that I do comes together in prayer, as I’m sitting, driving, celebrating the sacraments, and even when I’m distracted during the Divine Office, or sitting at the computer to upload a thought or two.
Today we come to the last of the Mysteries of Light, Jesus at the Last Supper. In my pondering of this mystery this week I have been aware anew of the danger of domesticating this event firstly in the life of Jesus at the table with his disciples and then at the Eucharist celebrated today.
What do I mean by domesticating?
The celebration of the Eucharist is often spoken of as a meal, and yes, it was a meal, a Jewish Passover meal. Because this was the last meal of Jesus with his friends before his suffering and death, this was not just an ordinary meal, or even just another Passover meal, but a meal at which he gave his body and blood (“this is my body….this is my blood”) for us the meal is also sacrifice.
I was reminded of this reading an article that referred to Pope Benedict speaking at a Eucharistic convention a few years ago. It was the title of the article that struck me: “The Church is not a meal among friends.”
I’m guessing that you will also be surprised at that title, so let’s look at a central paragraph from Benedict’s instruction”
“The Eucharist is not a meal among friends. It is a mystery of covenant. “The prayers and the rites of the Eucharistic sacrifice make the whole history of salvation revive ceaselessly before the eyes of our soul, in the course of the liturgical cycle, and make us penetrate ever more its significance” (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, [Edith Stein], We are called to enter into this mystery of covenant by conforming our life increasingly every day to the gift received in the Eucharist. It has a sacred character, as Vatican Council II reminds: “Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree “ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 7). In a certain way, it is a “heavenly liturgy,” anticipation of the banquet in the eternal Kingdom, proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ, until he comes (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26).
American author Flannery O’Connor (no relation but i would be happy if she was) commented: “If the Eucharist is just a symbol, then to hell with it.”
Let me put it in my own words: If the Eucharist is just a meal with friends then I would rather sit round a table in a home or at a restaurant with a few of my favourite people. I certainly wouldn’t bother going to church.
But if the Eucharist is a “mystery of covenant”, a “sacrifice” with the “sacred character” given by the “action of Christ” and a “heavenly liturgy”, wow. now that has really got my attention and turned all my desires to the only place where I can find an adequate response to the question that is life on earth.
Now that’s really worth digesting as we thumb through ten Hail Marys today.
You might find Bishop Robert Barron a helpful guide to praying these Luminous Mysteries at this link.