I've always enjoyed Holy Thursday the most of all Holy Week liturgies. I guess the music at Mass had a lot to do with it. We get to sing: Table Song, Bread for the World, Now We Remain, We Have Been Told, Take and Eat, We Remember, and as a Psalm, Our Blessing Cup (my most favourite setting by Bob Hurd). I also really love the washing of the feet. Once, while at York University I had my feet washed. While a simple act, it was very humbling.
When we re-enacted the Passion for Good Friday, or for specials like INRI
(airing Good Friday @ 9am, 6pm & 10pm ET), I also always enjoyed best the scene of the Last Supper. I loved saying the words: "baruch atah adonai, eloheinu, melah haolam…" "blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the Universe….", which are the words of the blessing of the bread and wine, which Jesus would have used. I learned these while working at a Jewish Summer camp one summer. Before and after every meal we prayed: "Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth." And then, "Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine." I used to love that simple prayer.
Last Sunday, Sheri, the boys and I gathered at our friends' home for the first of many (we hope) Pesach celebrations, or Passover meals together. None of us are Jewish, but as Christians, we wondered why we don't celebrate all Jewish holidays. Afterall, the Jewish people are our spiritual ancestors. Jesus did come to bring a new covenant and we believe that the Mass, the paschal sacrifice, replaces the Passover meal. But, it is also good to remember.
"We remember how you loved us, to your death, and still we celebrate for you are with us here. And we believe that we will see you when you come in your Glory, Lord. We remember, we celebrate, we believe." These are the words of the refrain of Marty Haugen's We Remember
. That is part of what we are called to do when we "do this in memory" of Him: remember. And the Jewish people are so good at remembering.
During Passover, we remember the exodus from Egypt. We read the Haggadah, or "story". This is the story of Moses and of the Jewish people who were enslaved in Egypt; The story of the 10 plagues and of the crossing of the Red Sea. It is a story of liberation, of redemption and of salvation. These are the four cups of Wine that are poured and drunk during the meal: the Cup of Blessing, the Cup of Memory, the Cup of Redemption and the Cup of Hope and Salvation. It is this last cup, at the end of the meal, when Jesus said, "this is my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins will be forgiven." The Jewish people understand suffering and sacrifice and atonement.
Some more contemporary Passover celebrations remember the six million Jews and others who were killed in Europe by evil forces. Evil forces that turned against all that is sacred to Jews, Christians and all other people for whom human life is sacred.
On Sunday, my family and I, and our friends remembered with reverence those men, women and children who have died at the hands of tyrants. We remembered all those who suffered persecution, injustice, poverty and shame. We remembered Anne Frank who said, "It's really a wonder that I haven't lost my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." She wrote this three weeks before she was sent to a concentration camp, a camp where she died.
Most of all, what struck me was how many times we gave thanks. At one point, after the reading of the Haggadah, we all read the "Dayenu", "for that alone we would have been grateful". It goes something like this:
How thankful we must be to God for all the good He has done for us.If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not fed us the manna in the desert…Dayenu, for that alone we would have been grateful.If He had fed us the manna, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai…Dayenu, for that alone we would have been grateful.If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah, the Law…Dayenu, for that alone we would have been grateful.If He had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel…Dayenu, for that alone we would have been grateful.
Oh that we were so thankful about everything.
I've always believed in the importance of being thankful. We want our children to grow up with this habit. But after celebrating the Passover meal, I have a new idea of what it means to be thankful after a meal. The Bible commands us to give thanks to God after eating a meal. It says, in Deuteronomy 8:10, "When you have eaten and are satisfied you shall thank the Lord our God for the good land which he has given you." and so, after the meal, we gave thanks, but it's not called, "thanks after the meal", it's called, "blessings after the meal." How did we give thanks? Well, how the Jewish people give thanks: we praised God for His goodness, for "his kindness is everlasting", using the words of many Psalms, and we blessed the Lord. We didn't say, "bless us, oh Lord and this food", we said, "blessed are YOU, Lord our God. Blessed are You! You are most awesome, you are the best." Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melah haolam...
Then after eating and drinking and praying and laughing we asked God to "inspire us to nobler living and to draw us closer to Him." We asked that we may plan and live our daily lives with the "same zeal that we have prepared for this day." I can't imagine a better celebration to have been the "Last Supper." To have been the institution of the Eucharist and of the priesthood and to prepare Jesus and all the disciples for what was to come in the next couple of days. May we too be blessed and empowered by tonight's Eucharistic Celebration for what is to come in the next three days.