Blog # 299 From Jerusalem to Augusta and back...
Blog # 298 focused upon the event of the original Good Friday experience of Jesus in Jerusalem. It was identified as an act of perfect obedient love and, as directed to the Father, labeled Worship.
In the light of our belief in the mystery of the Incarnation, in Jesus and the Word of God we have the same person. And in further light coming from the Incarnation, we have, in the normal experiences of Jesus as one of us, truly human experiences such as hunger fatigue lonelines generosity death temptation and the other normal limitations other than sin we all know in our day by day human lives. On the other hand when the Father's plan for Jesus called for thoughts actions or words beyond the scope and capacity of His biological human nature, Jesus, in obedience to the Father, was personally capable of experiencing these realities as divine as well as human or in other words as experiences of God on earth in Him and therefore infinite, beyond and independent of the limitations Jesus knew and we know as mere human creatures.
In that paragraph, reminding us of the clearly revealed identy in a single person of the Eternal Word and Jesus, and the consequences of this identity, seen in the perfectly human (limited) and divine (unlimited) experiences in the life of Jesus, it seems to me we have a fundamental and most important theological truth that does not normally seem to be part of the conscious awareness of folks in a typical congregation assembled before the altar at a time the Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered. In the light of such a lack of awareness it seems to me we could hardly understand, let alone be aware of what was going on at the Last Supper the evening before Jesus died, and, in the light of this, at the Eucharistic table around which we might be asembled as Mass is being offered.
First we must be aware of and appreciate what was going on at Calvary. The physical suffering and death of Jesus on Calvary, necessarily limited by its nature, occurred in its historical mode once and for all, never to be repeated in that mode. On the calendar, the twenty four hours of the day Jesus died on Calvary will never come again. So it is with the blood He shed and with all of the pain and suffering that goes with being crucified. It began that morning, continued for a time until His heart stopped beating and He died. He had given all He possessed. He had no more to give. Such is the way it is with death. It was this way for Jesus in the plan the Father had for Him. He had said "Yes" to it in the garden of Gethsemane the evening before. It would never happen again this way.
What next? In the Biblical narrative of it, the mystery of creation sin and salvation started with our Creator's promise to send a redeemer bearing the gift of forgiveness of sin. It continud on in Moses, Abraham, and a long line of Prophets who handed on the story of the promise and kept the hope for it alive in God's Chosen People. Then came Jesus, identified in the minds of people living around him in the town of Nazareth as the son of Joseph, a local carpenter. While still a young man Jesus made the claim for himself to be the fulfillment of the promise made to Adam. For a period of about three years He engaged in a ministry of preaching, shedding light on the meaning of the promise and upon His own divine identity as God's Beloved Son.
Finally on the evening before He died, while officially celebrating the Feast of Passover commemorating the release of God's Chosen People from the slavery of Egypt, Jesus did the most important and astonishing thing He ever did. It was His greatest miracle. It was the act that fulfilled the promise of Genesis and won salvation for all people who would hear of it and believe in it. He took bread and said it was His body given. He took wine and said it was His blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.
The same words Jesus proclaimed over the bread and over the wine at the Last Supper could truly have been said of the body and blood of Jesus on Calvary as He hung and died on the Cross the day before. The same words applied to both instances express an identical truth about the bread and the wine and His body and blood but in different modes. The key to understanding this lies in the words given and poured out. Given and poured out on Calvary in one historical mode. Given and poured out at the Last Supper in another mode unique to that occasion.
Three men died on Calvary that first Good Friday. One of them died a broken and despairing man. A second of the men we know as Saint Dismas, the Good Thief. The third man, Jesus, was God, the Eternal Word, come among us as Jesus precisely for this moment, to die, to show us what it means to love most perfectly in the unconditional trust and total self-giving of Jesus in His death on the Cross. This was the fulfillment of the promise made to Adam on behalf of all people. Jesus' death was His greatest love and His greatest glory (Jn 17: 5,6), an act of worship that won for Him the victory over sin and death in the experience of His predicted Resurrection three days later and the title of Redeemer of All Mankind.
The Title of this blog is 'From Jerusalem to Augusta and back... Those three dots indicate there is more. We have been in Jerusalem for the death of Jesus and the Last Supper. We have to come back to Augusta before we finish. We have identified the Last Supper with Calvary. It remains to identify the Sacrifice of the Mass that we experience here in Augusta at St. Mary on the Hill with the other two.
The infinite love of Jesus the Word of God was experienced and proclaimed as a unique experience, once and for all, in the naturally limited physical nature of the suffering of Jesus on the Cross (as one of us He had only so much to give and gave it all), and naturally limited as well by time and place in its historical mode ( in a certain hour on the hill of Calary). The experience of the Last Supper was also a once in a lifetime unique experience, never to be repeated in its historical mode. What made it so was the unique physical presence of Jesus at the table . The words spoken by Jesus over the bread and the wine at the Last Supper were spoken in the sound of His personal voice in the sight of His physical presence. The combination of these precise details would never occur again.
As the Last Supper was the experience of Calvary in a different mode so the experience of the Mass is the experience of the Last Supper in still a different mode. We refer to it as a Sacramental mode. In every experience in the Sacramental mode we have three elements, a reality that is signified in some tangible way, and a response by the person receiving the Sacrament. In reference to the Sacrifice of the Mass Calvary is the basic reality signified in the here and now by the love and Sacramental presence of Jesus in the bread given and in the wine poured out and received by a believer in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
This has been a long blog with a rich content that merits reflection upon it. I hope to share a few further insights that will be helpful in another blog 'tomorrow'....