Thursday, March 28, 2024

Foretaste of the eternal... now

The heavenly banquet feast offers many rich images in Scripture but sometimes we forget the focus is not all to what was.  It is also what will be.  What is the food?  What is it that we will eat now and what will we eat eternally?  As we come to Holy Thursday, the answer is there before us.  We will gather in the Lord's name to recall the Upper Room and the Lord's institution of this Blessed Sacrament.  We will remember the Passover context for this Supper.  And will we do more?  Will we look at the future which is glimpsed already?  Will we consider what it is that we shall eat when the Marriage Feast of the Lamb is eaten in His kingdom without end?  This supper points not only to the past and what was but to the future and what will be.

Today, just as we do when we gather every Sunday, the food which we eat is the mystery of Christ's flesh in bread and Christ's blood in wine.  Though we are tempted to explain it, this mystery simply begs to be believed, adored, eaten and drunk.  We have His Word and Testament.  This is My body.  This is My blood.  The Blood of the new and eternal covenant.  But this meal is also transitional.  It is not the whole meal but the foretaste, the appetizer, of the full and eternal banquet to come.  It is not that the meal changes but its context certainly does. 

What we eat today is food that does not merely look back to the Passover within the context of Calvary but it looks forward to the eternal.  We are caught in that tension of the already but not yet.  Christ sets His table among us in the presence of our enemies and gives Himself to us.  He is priest of the sacrifice and its victim, host of the meal and its food.  But this communion also anticipates and even longs for the fulfillment and finish.  What now we eat as foretaste, we shall in the Lord's time eat as full meal.  But the food is not new or different.  It is His flesh and His blood -- the only food that can deliver to us what it promises, answering the hunger within and satisfying the thirst once and for all.

Come, you blessed of the Heavenly Father, enter into the delight of our God, into the holy place where Christ has set His table, bringing to fulfillment the promise of Passover and giving us the first taste of the eternal to come.  For as often as we eat of this bread and drink of this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.  And then, when He has come as He has promised, the promise of His death will be consummated with the life that death cannot overcome.  But the food will remain the same -- His flesh and His blood given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins.

O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

By all means, work to make sure you are in attendance on Maundy Thursday.  But if you cannot attend, perhaps this prayer may accompany your Holy Thursday devotions:

Heavenly Father, Your Son instituted the most blessed Sacrament for us Christians to eat and to drink, that what is promised in His Testament may be truly received by those He calls friends and heirs through baptism. Have mercy on all who are kept from Your table in these extraordinary circumstances and prevent them from being kept from Your Supper longer than must be. Let the Words of Christ’s Testament echo in their ears and hearts and, in true faith, and strengthen their faith in these Words, trusting that they receive spiritually in faith that which Your Son has both won and declared: the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Stir up in us the longing for Your Table that when we are able to commune with our fellow Christians on Your Son's true Body and Blood we may receive its gift with renewed faith and rejoice with even greater joy in the unity of His altar.  Until that is possible, build within us the anticipation for this blest communion and greater appreciation for the heavenly food of this Eucharist, Christ's flesh in bread and His blood in wine.  Strengthen our faith through our devotional life in Your Word and give to our prayers renewed fervor and blessing; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

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