Friday, 8 June 2012

My body, my blood

Reflection on the Sunday Feast of Corpus Christi
Gospel of Mark; 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.
  And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’

  After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.

“The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom.  It is not an escape from the world, rather it is the arrival at a vantage point from which we can see more deeply into the reality of the world.”
― Alexander Schmemann

When we teach the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem we talk about the expectation of the Jews; that if they were going to get a Messiah then he should be a warrior and one that has come to challenge the worldview that they were living under. 

This introduction to the Passover suggests that Jesus is, at least, fulfilling the second part of expectation but only if you read the signs. When I was younger I used to read this passage as if Jesus was a magician who knew exactly what was going to happen and could even make things happen, exactly the way he wanted them to. 

In fact it is more likely that the preparations for the Passover were made as part of an already covert group that were supporting Jesus and his Mission. Reading the Gospel we come to realise that Jesus is not the popular person that we may have thought. He is criticised by his family and his neighbours; he is thrown out of towns and told not to come back. His previous visits to Jerusalem have not ended well. His walks through fields and deserts, off the beaten track, are probably as much to prevent confrontation as anything else. 

Jesus and his followers are living in violent times; times when it wasn't always prudent to wear your heart on your sleeve; especially in Jerusalem when people were already out to get you. So the sign of the watercarrying man, in a society when men did not carry water could well be the sign of a group of followers awaiting the return of their Rabbi for this, the most important feast of the year. The preparations for the Seder meal are particular and time-consuming so would have been well underway - the disciples would have been complicit in the final arrangements to gather his followers together- all without any knowledge of what was to come.

This is where it all gets so sadly ironic. The followers must be delighted to be back in Jerusalem again with Jesus; delighted to be celebrating the memory of Moses bringing the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt and imagining that Jesus was going to lead them out of exploitation, exclusion and discrimination. After all, Moses had tried diplomacy before calling down the Angel of the Lord; before all that bloodshed. Surely there was something of a righteous warrior in Jesus? Little did they know that the blood shed would be his.

The reenactment of the last night in Egypt recalls that the people left with no more than the clothes they stood up in. Jesus faces his fate with even less. Before they leave for the Mount of Olives - a sign that the feast day is over - Jesus has taken the place of the Passover Lamb.  

In prayer I often turn to prayers of surrender such as the Ignatian Suspice - Take Lord, receive - like James and John I imagine that I can make the same sacrifice that Jesus faces; except I have this feeling that I have been getting it wrong. 

Jesus is not a sacrifice; his Father may have offered him as Abraham did  many years before, but this Lamb has a mind of his own - in the sharing he has made a gift of himself - giving his body to be our strength and his blood to mark us as his own. A gift pushed aside as a maudlin gesture; laughed away in the cups of the Seder toast but held in trust until the breaking of bread in a wayside inn on the road to Emmaus.  

For all the times since, in house gatherings and Cathedrals, chapels and churches; upper rooms and underground hiding places, Jesus is present, giving himself with unending generosity; his body and blood in every celebration of the Eucharist for whoever is there to receive him. He gives himself to the child, the aged, the poor, the angry, the despised, the joyful, the optimist, the doubter, the comfortable, the wise, the wondering and the weary. He gives himself to me so that I can try to give myself back to him.  

- St. Maximilian Kolbe
"You come to me and unite Yourself intimately to me under the form of nourishment. Your Blood now runs in mine, Your Soul, Incarnate God, compenetrates mine, giving courage and support. What miracles! Who would have ever imagined such!"



Anonymous said...

I especially love the second sentence of Alexander Schmemann's quote :) There were times I found myself seeing Christ as an escape and have felt secluded/isolated as a Christian, or delusional/out of reality, but it's the opposite.

Your reflection reminds me to ready myself to receive God. To know Jesus better, to know him for who he is, on this journey.

claire said...

Jesus is present, giving himself with unending generosity...

It is with Jesus that my heart and mind long to spend time these days.

Thank you, Mairie!

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you both for spending time with my thoughts.
Jesus' generosity is difficult to refuse. blessings to you