Great and Holy Thursday: St. Basil; The Lord’s Supper
Today we gather and celebrate the Lord’s mystical supper and receive communion on the very day that Christ established His mystical supper in the upper room; commanding that we partake continuously until He returns in glory! What a privilege! Christ gave us this everlasting memorial saying, “Take eat, this is my Body” and “Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant,” before He departed from his disciples and went to His voluntary death on the cross, to complete all that had been written about Him by the prophets. He left them and us, His everlasting presence, His very body and blood to partake of until He returns in power to judge all things at His second coming. The very presence of Christ in the Eucharist was never questioned within the “Christian” church for 1500 years, until well into the Protestant reformation. It has always been understood that this is the main reason we gather; communion is the pinnacle and climax of the Divine Liturgy. Our Lord very carefully and intentionally instituted this “new covenant” just before going to pray and voluntarily giving himself up on the Mount of Olives.
Christ gives us the Eucharist, the mystical supper. His very body and blood, His real presence permeates the bread and wine which we make from grapes and wheat which have grown and matured through the life force, the energy of God. Eucharist means “Thanksgiving”. We are to never receive communion unworthily, casually, treating it as we often sinfully treat so much of God’s creation and His ever-present love which fills all of our life. This great gift which the Lord gives us today given is to transform us into Eucharistic people. Thanking and recognizing God in all things. Communion is the most precious, grace loaded gift which brings all of God into us and unites us to Him. By partaking regularly, we start to become transformed into the very image of Christ and slowly begin to awaken out of our slumber and taste and see reality. It is the beginning and the end of transformation. All of the saints held communion as the most precious of the sacred and precious gifts given to us by Christ. And today we celebrate the birth of this great and life changing mark of the new covenant, the institution of the mystical supper by receiving communion. Praise God!
Christ said to the devil when being tempted to make bread from stones to satisfy His hunger “Man shall not live by bread alone.” All of creation is good and filled with God’s generous love. He created all so that everything would be dependent upon His love, His energy, to grow and mature. What is this life creating energy that causes everything to exist? It is truly God and His love. Yet we have become cut off and foolish and deluded into thinking that all this was somehow just here, ours to use and manipulate for our own selfish purposes. We fail to discern His presence in everything. We think we are somehow self-sufficient and powerful in our own right – not realizing that apart from God we don’t even exist.
Yes, God’s power and grace and glory is ever present in the communion cup, but we must also do our part to benefit from it. Notice what the scripture says in John speaking of what happens to Judas once he eats the bread given Him by Christ; “Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him.” That’s a terrifying verse. Judas then goes out and betrays his friend and His God, Jesus, with a kiss. We should never come to the cup knowingly, with hatred and hypocrisy in our hearts, or we risk having our rebellion and our bitterness grow, rather than becoming healed. We need to come in all humility, realizing that we can never be worthy of this great and awesome gift. If we stubbornly hang on to unforgiveness and anger and selfishness when we are aware that we are entertaining and defending such attitudes, and still come to the cup, it will cause us to become far worse, rather than bringing love and healing into our lives. This too is the grace of God, as if we finally get so miserable that we can’t stand it anymore, perhaps we will finally be willing to truly turn to God in repentance and allow Him to work in our lives to heal such terrible afflictions. As St. Paul says in today’s epistle “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.”
So today we have these great and seemingly conflicting themes. We have the mystical supper given to us as a great and sustaining gift, the highlight of all our worship. And yet we are warned in the epistle not to partake in an unworthy manner, to beware lest we end up like Judas. Judas, one of the 12 who travelled with the Lord, saw his miracles, saw Him raise Lazarus from the dead, and yet betrayed Christ with a kiss and then fell into such despair that he killed himself.
Today we sing repeatedly “Of Your mystical supper O Son of God, accept me today, as a communicant. For I will not speak of Your mysteries to your enemies. Neither like Judas will I give you a kiss.” We sing this at the great entrance, we sing this during communion and then we finish with singing it at the dismissal instead of “Let our mouths be filled with Your praise O Lord…” Notice the first-person context of this song. Accept ME, I will not speak; I will not give You a kiss like Judas. We are making this pledge to Christ as we say it. It is not even a prayer, once we have finished asking to be accepted as a communicant. Here, we are not asking for strength or anything else from God, we are promising to God, choosing, through directing our will, to not speak of the precious things of God to those who would blaspheme and disrespect them. To not betray Christ, by pretending like Judas to be a follower and yet acting otherwise. We are given a great and glorious gift in the mystical supper, but we must do our part and not take it for granted. Let us continue our journey with our Lord to His passion, thankfully and becoming ever more aware of His sacrifice for us and for the life of the world.