Tuesday, October 16, 2007

5th Luminous Mystery: The Institution of the Holy Eucharist (John)

It was a sacred moment. We had all shared the Passover meal, an annual event that is so sacred and so much a part of our lives and tradition that all of us almost know the ritual by heart, with little or no need to prompt.

I was the youngest there, and so, as custom dictates, I was the one to ask “Why is this night different from all other nights?” By right, Peter, being the eldest, should have responded with the story of Moses and the escape of Israel from the might of Pharaoh and slavery. However, it was the seniority of Jesus that overtook all other precedents.

Jesus started the story. He has a pleasant voice, making it easy to listen, even at length. When he is speaking to the crowds and also to us, he might refer to concepts that are difficult, but his words themselves are not complicated. He is a born story-teller. As he spoke, each of us could readily imagine Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh and all the other characters mentioned in the course of the long history of suffering experienced by our people during their time in Egypt.

Of course, Peter, James and I had the unexpected benefit this year, of having seen Moses for ourselves. That memory made my mind wander away from all that Jesus was recalling to our minds, because I could once again visualise him on the mountaintop, where he glowed with an other-worldly splendour. I am sure that it was exactly the same with Peter and James. Did Jesus mean us to remember that moment? I do not know and it is immaterial, in fact.

The Passover ritual is so familiar that it was something of a shock to all of us when Jesus departed from its time-honoured format. Even those who had been feeling drowsy were suddenly alert.

Yes, we had the four cups of wine as prescribed for the occasion. We had the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs.

What we had not anticipated was that Jesus would take the bread, bless it, break it and share it amongst us, telling us that it was his body, which would be broken for us.

We had not foreseen that Jesus would take a cup of wine, bless it and would share it as ‘the cup of [his] blood, poured out for us in remission of our sins’. That was new and unscripted. What was he saying? We did not know and could not guess.

We did not feel that Jesus had taken anything away from Passover by his unfamiliar, unexplained, words and deeds. We all thought that, even if we did not understand, there was something very sacred and innovative happening. It felt like a new beginning even if we did not know what it might be that we were inaugurating. Do what in remembrance of him? Offer the bread and wine? Why did he say those words as if he were to leave us? It was strange and I still do not understand.

We had all eaten more than enough and needed some fresh air and exercise. It was Jesus who suggested that we leave the supper room and stroll to the Garden of Olives, a place much loved by all of us. I do not know where Judas might be. Still, he will probably guess where we are and follow on afterwards.

Thaddeus and I linger for a few moments, chatting in a desultory fashion, both somewhat perplexed by the change of sequence in celebrating Passover, but neither of us having the energy, at this time of evening, to enter into any debate. It is a warm, starry evening. All is well with the world.

God bless,
Sr. Janet