PRESENCE, a REFLECTION for HOLY THURSDAY
A reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. - 1 Cor 11: 23-26
Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it . . . Men have found no better thing than this to do . . .
(Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy)
To have Christ in bodily presence is such an incomparable blessing as to swallow up all other privileges. (St. John Henry Newman)
How many times in our lives have we seen two people separated who love each other? During the ugly and bitter war, in my youth, I saw young people leave without hope of return, parents torn from their homes, not knowing if they would one day find their loved ones. Upon leaving, a gesture, a picture, or an object passes from hand to hand in a certain way in order to prolong presence in absence. And nothing more. Human love is capable of only these symbols.
Motivated by an even greater love, when the hour had come for Christ to part with his disciples, he had the power to leave his Church with more than a gesture. In his absence, he left his presence. Thus, to say farewell, the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, did not leave his friends a symbol, but the reality of himself….. Under the species of bread and wine, he is really present, with his body and blood, his soul and divinity.
Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency?
(St. John Paul II, from a homily)
Several years ago I noticed that the Church uses the same readings each year for the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. St. Paul's institution narrative, in particular, places me at this table. I know in my heart and soul that "for you" is me.
In this time of quarantines, social distancing, and streaming liturgies, it can be spiritually challenging to manage well without access to Communion, for which my own need is consistent and deep. Eucharist is central to our Catholic faith, source and summit, embodiment of love, and gift of self – His total, and mine often entirely inadequate.