My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
HOLY AND GREAT WEEK: HOLY AND GREAT THURSDAY (Part III)
On this day, Holy and Great THURSDAY,
the holy Apostles and Fathers, one after the other,
have commanded for our good that remembrance
is kept of the following Four Events
written in the Holy Gospels:
the SACRED WASHING,
the MYSTICAL SUPPER (that is, the Tradition
handed down to us of the Awesome Mysteries),
the supernatural PRAYER,
and the BETRAYAL in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Couplet for the Mystical Supper
Twofold is the Supper: for there was the Passover that the law brought,
and there is the New Pascha of the Blood and Body of the Master.
Since tomorrow, Friday, the Hebrew sacrifice of Passover, that is, the slaughter of a lamb reared to that end, was intended, the Truth follows the old type on that Friday, that is to say, by the sacrifice of the True Passover, namely the Lamb of God and the Father, the One “Who TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD” (John 1:29). It was Our Lord Jesus Christ Who was prefigured by the paschal lamb that the Hebrews were sacrificing yearly.
It was during the evening, then, of this day, the eve of the ancient law’s Passover, the Feast Day OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, and a Thursday, that Jesus, together with the Twelve Disciples, observed the Passover meal. The Lord did so in the evening of Thursday, observing the Jewish reckoning of time of ‘night day’: this means that the evening of the present day is called the evening of the following day. In other words, according to Hebrew tradition “Friday Eve” began after sundown on Thursday. Preparations were arranged by Zebedee, the man described by Our Savior as follows: ‘A man shall meet you, bearing an earthenware vessel of water; follow him” (Matthew 14:13; Luke 22:10). Saint Athanasios, and others as well, identifies the man as Zebedee of whom other things are also mentioned.
Now, afterward, Jesus revealed the more perfect things to His Disciples. When night had fully come, Christ delivered to them, and through them to us, the Mystery (Sacrament) of Pascha. It was then that He inclined with the Twelve. Therefore, O reader, see that this was no Passover meal of the old law since they were not only reclining but also having a table laid with bread and drink. AS to the menu of the Passover meal of long ago, according to the Book of Exodus, there was roasted lamb which was eaten with unleavened bread with bitter herbs. The participants were to have their loins girded, with sandals on their feet, and staves in their hands. They were commanded to eat in haste. The Jews were instructed as follows: “Nothing shall be left of it till the morning, and a bone of it ye shall not break, but that which is left of it till the morning ye shall burn with fire” (Exodus 12:10). Therefore, all that remained was committed to the flames.
According to Saint John Chrysostom, before the commencement of the Mystical Supper, Christ rose from the supper and washed the feet of His Disciples. He did so to shame Judas and to remind the others that one ought NOT TO SEEK THE FIRST PLACE OF HONOR.”
After Judas had withdrawn to the high priests, the Lord repaired to the Mount of Olives…Elsewhere, we read that Judas DID NOT PARTAKE OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST. Within the document Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions. Many of the Holy Fathers, however, believe Judas was not absent.
After the Mystical Supper, going out beyond Kedron, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Satan, hearing the Lord speaking as a man in prayer, was deceived. It is here where Judas led those who would arrest Jesus, that is after Judas gave the signal by planting a false kiss upon Christ. When day had arrived, Christ was brought from Annas to High Priest Caiaphas. Those, thereafter, who escorted Jesus to Pilate would not enter the Praetorium or judgment hall that they might eat the Passover then. It was fitting that the Truth follows what was typified in the law. All these incidents transpired during the night of Thursday and continued into Friday. For this cause is it needful that we bring to mind these fearsome and ineffable works and deeds.
Blessed Theophylact states: “The praying in Gethsemane was from His human nature…and this is declared by His sweat and by His agony which was so great that, as the saying goes, drops of blood fell from Him. For, as the saying goes, those who toil exceedingly ‘sweat blood,” and those who lament bitterly ‘weep blood.’ This is why the Evangelist uses the image of sweating drops of blood, to show that the Lord was not merely damp, but perspired all around… In a more mystical sense, the Lord willed to suffer these things in order TO HEAL HUMAN NATURE OF COWARDICE…THUS MAKING COWARDICE OBEDIENT TO THE DIVINE WILL.
ON THE MYSTICAL SUPPER
GOD has called us to participation in His Goodness. Saint Maximos the Confessor tells us that “the Logos/Word enables us to participate in holy life by making Himself OUR FOOD, in a manner understood by Himself and sby those who have received from Christ A NOETIC PERCEPTION OF THIS KIND. It is by tasting This Food that we say with David, “TASTE FOR YOURSELVES AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD; HAPPY IS THE MAN WHO HOPETH UPON HIM” (Psalm 33:8). We, therefore, become truly aware that the Lord is full of virtue. For the Lord transmutes with divinity those who eat it, bring about their divinization, since He is the ‘BREAD OF LIFE’ (John 6:35-48), and of power in both name and reality.
We have received the power OF CONTINUOUS UNION WITH GOD THROUGH OUR OWN CHOICE. Saint John of Damascus explains how this came about, writing: “God Who is GOOD and altogether GOOD and more than GOOD. Who is GOODNESS THROUGHOUT, BY REASON OF THE EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GOODNESS DID NOT SUFFER HIMSELF, THAT IS HIS NATURE, ONLY TO BE GOOD, WITH NO OTHER TO PARTICIPATE THEREIN, BUT BECAUSE OF THIS HE MADE FIRST THE SPIRITUAL AND HEAVENLY POWERS:NEXT THE VISIBLE AND SENSIBLE COSMOS; NEXT MAN WITH HIS SPIRITUAL AND SENTIENT NATURE. ALL THINGS, THEREFORE, WHICH HE MADE, SHARE IN HIS GOODNESS IN RESPECT OF THEIR EXISTENCE. For He Himself is existence to all, …not only because it was He that brought them out of nothing into being, but because His energy preserves and maintains ALL THAT HE MADE–AND ESPECIALLY IN THE LIVING CREATURES. For both in that they exist and in that they enjoy life, they share IN HIS GOODNESS….Man, however, being endowed WITH REASON and FREE WILL, RECEIVED THE POWER OF CONTINUOUS UNION WITH GOD THROUGH HIS OWN CHOICE–IF INDEED HE SHOULD ABIDE IN HIS GOODNESS, THAT IS, IN OBEDIENCE TO HIS MASTER…” Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
“Glory Be T GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George