The Institution of the Eucharist

The Holy Sacrament Altarpiece, by Dieric Bouts, is an important piece of Flemish art with an interesting story. The work presents the Last Supper in the central panel, surrounded by four panels showing Old Testament pre-figurements of the Eucharist. It was commissioned by the Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament for a church in Leuven, with specific instructions given by the two commissioning theology professors. Unlike traditional depictions of the Last Supper, which show Our Lord announcing the betrayal of Judas, they wanted this painting to depict Our Lord and His apostles at the moment when He first instituted the Eucharist.  You can read more about the piece here.

Eucharistic devotion was very strong in the Southern Netherlands, and there were many confraternities there devoted to the Blessed Sacrament.  In fact, there was a special sort of tabernacle in use in Germany and the Low Countries, called a sacrament house.  The Church prohibited them in the 1860s in order to make reservation of the Blessed Sacrament more uniform in tabernacles, but for 400 years they were in use.  The oldest known example is in this same church, St Peter’s in Leuven, where the Bouts altarpiece is located.  Many sacrament houses were destroyed during the iconoclasm of the reformation, but there are still examples extant, and you also see them in many Flemish paintings, although I must say, I have never really noticed them until now.  A sacrament house was a large tower shaped structure, usually located on the north side of the church, intricately carved, sometimes with stairs and a railing leading up to it, where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved.  The door had a grille or lattice, so that the Eucharist could be seen at all times.

For our community, Holy Thursday is an important feast: The beginning of the Sacred Triduum, and the day on which Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist.  His Real Presence is the Sun around which our lives as adorers revolve.  And mixed with the joy of this gift He gives us, we have the sorrow of the Passion, about to begin in earnest after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  For all our PCPA houses this is a sad day because Jesus is removed from the monstrance, removed from the tabernacle, and taken to the altar of repose.  And though we follow him there, the open tabernacle is like a gaping wound, there is no mistaking the empty feeling that takes over the darkened chapel during these three days that He is absent.  We will follow Him to the Garden, follow Him as He is dragged before His many accusers, Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin; we will follow Him to prison, to Pilate, to Herod, and finally, we will follow Him along the Via Dolorosa, and to Calvary.  With Our Lady as Mother and guide, we will accompany Him, in our own inadequate way, throughout the events of our redemption, awaiting His victory over death and hell, and His return to our midst.

Show Notes – A Good Habit 4/1/15

A Good Habit Show NotesIn preparation for Holy Thursday, we were joined last Wednesday by our friend Marge Giangiulio, to talk about two things central to the feast: the priesthood and the Eucharist. Marge has started Eucharistic Adoration in ten parishes to date. She also has another very important apostolate of spiritual motherhood and adoration for priests. It all began with an inspiration during Eucharistic adoration. On this episode she talks about how she started this work, and how you can be a part of it, too.

LadyofGraceandtheMastersoftheOrdero

If you would like to learn more about the work she began, or how you can get it started in your own diocese, go to: www.prayformypriest.org You can email Marge at: adore10397(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

Do This In Memory of Me

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1323 “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'”133

The institution of the Eucharist

1337 The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love.161 In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make Continue reading

Captive

The chant below (see bottom of post) is the Benedictus antiphon from Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday.  I wanted to share it, not because of the chant itself, which is beautifully sung, but because the words really struck me when I saw them last night:  Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying:  Whom I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast.

Hold him fast.  There are different ways we can hold God.  When I hear these words I think of clinging to God, an act of faith, made out of desperation sometimes, but grasping Him firmly because He is your last and only hope.  We can hold God like a lover, like a life-preserver, like a friend.  But here we see another way to hold him, which has nothing to do with love or devotion: we can hold him fast like a hostage.  Our weak faith, our lack of trust in God, our obstinacy in getting our own way, all these tempt us to hold God prisoner.  If I can just get a good grip on Him, I’ll get him to see things my way.  But we can’t control God or bend Him to our will; it’s fruitless and destructive.

Rather than holding God captive there is a better way: we can let our souls be held captive by Him; to become captivated by His insatiable and enduring love for us – the Love that sustains all other loves, and which led Him to submit Himself to the grasp of sinners.

Tonight, after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, our Lord will go to the Mount of Olives to meet Judas, and each of us will accompany Him as His Passion begins.  He who holds all creation in the palm of His hand willingly gives Himself into the hands of wicked men.  As the deepest mysteries of our salvation begin to unfold, let us comfort and console Our Lord by giving ourselves over to Him completely, by letting Him hold us fast.

Pope Francis’ Holy Thursday Homily

Pope Francis washes the foot of an inmate at Casal del Marmo, Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Below is the translation of Pope Francis’ unscripted homily from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

This is moving. Jesus, washing the feet of his disciples. Peter didn’t understood it at all, he refused. But Jesus explained it for him. Jesus – God – did this! He himself explains to his disciples: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:12-15).

It is the Lord’s example: he is the most important, and he washes feet, because with us what is highest must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign, right? Washing feet means: “I am at your service”. And with us too, don’t we have to wash each other’s feet day after day? But what does this mean? That all of us must help one another. Sometimes I am angry with someone or other … but… let it go, let it go, and if he or she asks you a favour, do it.

Help one another: this is what Jesus teaches us and this what I am doing, and doing with all my heart, because it is my duty. As a priest and a bishop, I must be at your service. But it is a duty which comes from my heart: I love it. I love this and I love to do it because that is what the Lord has taught me to do. But you too, help one another: help one another always. One another. In this way, by helping one another, we will do some good.

Now we will perform this ceremony of washing feet, and let us think, let each one of us think: “Am I really willing, willing to serve, to help others?”. Let us think about this, just this. And let us think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, which Jesus gives, because this is the real reason why Jesus came: to serve, to help us.

Holy Thursday

As religious especially dedicated to Our Lord’s Eucharistic Presence, Holy Thursday takes on even more meaning. It may seem odd to celebrate just as the Triduum is about to begin, but in our order this day is one of special celebration and solemnity. What took place in the Upper Room over 2,000 years ago is central to our vocations. Where would we be were it not for our Lord’s words “This is my body.” The Heart of the Church is the Eucharist, precisely because it is Christ’s Heart, alive and beating in our midst, feeding us daily.

It has been our community’s custom on this day to ask one another’s forgiveness for any hurts or offenses we may have committed, whether willingly or unwillingly.  Forgiveness is what Christ’s Passion gained for us, it is only right that we should begin the Sacred Triduum by ourselves asking forgiveness.  So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Mt 5:23-24)

Our midday meal is better described as a feast.  The joyful celebration of the day stands in stark contrast to the solemn silence which descends on the monastery after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  We are reminded that the joys of the day exist only in relation to, and because of, the unspeakable suffering and death Our Lord willingly endured for our sake.  Indeed, our vocation, because it is intimately tied to His Eucharistic Presence, could not be without his Passion.