Monday, November 19, 2018
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives [to pray in the quiet of the night]. – Matthew 26:26-30
When the apostles gathered for that meal in the upper room, Christ offered prayers of thanksgiving, possibly such as these …
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ‑יָ אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ Blessed art Thou, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ‑יָ אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.
In its way … that Last Supper was a thanksgiving meal, though shared in the shadows of intrigue and treachery, but also in the first light of an Easter dawn. Christ offered thanks for the bread and the wine and in the process, gave them new meaning.
Our thanksgiving feasts are harvest feasts, though for many today, the link between harvesting the fields at the end of a long season of labor and the feast are less obvious and tangible. We still sing of those agrarian images of the harvest, but modern life is more about paychecks and electronic transfers of money. Faint is the sense of having survived by way of the providential hand of God. Faint are the pangs of hunger that make this feast so remarkable. Faint is the recognition that if it were not for the cooperative community will to share both labor and blessing we would not have prospered. And because of how these experiences have grown faint, the thanksgiving feasts of today are not as spiritually significant as once they were.
I try to experience the powerful thanksgiving in His heart when He looked at those men who stood by him through the struggle and who always struggle for Him in the days and years to come. I imagine Him gazing into the eyes of each of them and cherishing the persons represented by names such as Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, …. I imagine how He was thankful for what distinctive they brought to enrich this common table that on this historic night they brought. And I imagine how thankful He was that He would be a part of their lives forever. And through it all … He was thankful that this meal midst the starlight and lamplight would be shared with those whom He loved and who loved Him in response.
I think this year I will add the Holy Communion to our thanksgiving feast … in remembrance of that thanksgiving feast of long ago.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz