The Last Supper and the Cross: Nothing but the Same Mystery

Two millennia after the “first Easter Triduum” in history, Catholics invariably profess that the sacred banquet called Mass or Eucharist is the memorial and actualization of the sacrifice of Calvary.

Newsroom (08/04/2022 6:33 PM, Gaudium PressNowadays, everyone’s attention is focused on certain serious and worrying immediate issues. However, they neglect transcendental things of permanent value that do not strike like a pandemic or a war, but that are life-giving. Let’s look at one of them, which is proper to the Lenten season.

There is a great affinity, even more, an equivalence, between what happened on Thursday and Friday that we call “holy days”, the eve and the consummation of the Holy Passion of Our Lord. What happened in the Upper Room and on Golgotha is one and the same wondrous mystery.

This truth, in identifying two culminating events of the Savior’s last days on earth, contributes to enhancing the value of the Eucharist. And if it is true that the Cross is the symbol par excellence of Christianity, it is not at all inappropriate that a Eucharistic emblem – for example, a chalice on which a host gleams – can also, justly, be an icon of our Faith.

Let us discuss some analogies between the two magnificent events of Christ’s gift, one without bloodshed at the Last Supper, and the other on the next, barbarically bloody day, when the Lord suffered and died on the Cross. Let’s look at a quick non-exhaustive list:

Before the Supper, He divests Himself of them and girds Himself with a towel for the washing of feet On Calvary, Jesus is stripped of His clothes to be crucified
In the Upper Room, the Savior humbles Himself by kneeling before His Apostles to wash their feet, an office that was reserved for slaves On the Cross, his annihilation will reach its extreme, immolating himself for all
At the Supper, Saint John knows the secrets of the Sacred Heart as he lies on its breast At the foot of the Cross, they are revealed to him as he receives the precious legacy of Mary as his Mother
In the Upper Room, Jesus institutes the Eucharist by giving himself as food On the Cross, from his side pierced by the lance, blood and water flow, signs of the sacraments that nourish the life of the soul
At the Supper, when consecrating the bread and wine, Jesus refers to his “delivered” Body and his “shed” Blood, signifying the violent death that took place on the Cross, leaving his Body completely bloodless
In the Upper Room, he gave his Body as food on the way to Heaven On Golgotha, he sacrificed it to give us eternal life
At the Supper, with the Lord’s friends, the betrayer was present At Calvary, we find innocence and penitence – Mary his Mother and the Magdalene – and the unrepentant thief
In the Upper Room, the table is an altar where the species of bread and wine are transubstantiated On Calvary, the Cross is the altar on which Christ immolated his Body by shedding all his Blood
The mention of the betrayal and abandonment at the Supper, “One of you will deliver me.” The abandonment at the Cross, “My Father, why have you forsaken me?”
In the room adjacent to the Upper Room were also Mary and other faithful women Next to the Cross, we see his Mother and other holy and heroic women
At supper, the Messiah prays in his Priestly Prayer: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified”. On Golgotha, what Jesus had said was fulfilled: “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to Me.
In the Cenacle, the Master explains his royalty: “the kings of the earth are rulers, it must not be so among you; let he who commands be as he who serves” On the Cross is displayed the INRI, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
In the Upper Room he signals to his disciples: “Where I am going, you cannot go now, but you will come later” On the Cross he addresses the good thief: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
On entering the Upper Room, he says the same thing, in other words, “How much I longed to celebrate this Passover!” On the Cross he declares: “I am thirsty”.
In the Upper Room he expresses: “I pray for them and for what they must believe” On the Cross he addresses the Father: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”
In the Upper Room, by the power of his words, his body remains as the captive of the consecrated species On Calvary, that same body remained bound on the tree by three merciless nails
At the Last Supper, he raises his eyes to heaven before instituting the Eucharist On the Cross he raises them to address the Father: “Eli, Eli…”
In the Upper Room, Christ sentences: “The hour has come.” On the Cross, He exclaims triumphantly: “It is finished”
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Besides the Cenacle-Calvary equivalence, there is another consideration that tells us how the unbloody sacrifice and the death of the Victim also integrate and claim each other: Jesus suffered and died on the Cross for all men, their participation in this oblation being merely passive. In order that the sacrifice of the Cross might be active, personal and effective in the redeemed, He previously instituted the Eucharist, whose purpose is to fulfill the goal of the redemptive work, which is to transform the faithful into another Christ.

Keep in mind something important: moral sufferings are more acute than physical sufferings and, in the case in question, more meritorious. A superficial approximation of what we are dealing with supposes that the Supper was only a fraternal celebration in the ritual framework of Easter; and that pain was only suffered in the flagellation, on the way of the cross and on the tree. But this is not so. Already in the Garden of Olives, before being arrested, Jesus suffered an atrocious agony.

Two millennia after the “first Easter Triduum” in history, we Catholics invariably profess that the sacred banquet we call the Mass or Eucharist is a memorial and an actualization of the sacrifice of Calvary.

Let us conclude this reflection with golden flourishes by quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which in its number 1336 says: the first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them. “This way of speaking is hard, who can hear it?” (Jn, 6:60). The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery that never ceases to be divisive “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn 6:67). This question of the Lord resounds through the centuries as an invitation of his love to discover that he alone has “words of eternal life” (Jn 6, 68) and that to welcome in Faith the gift of his Eucharist is to welcome Himself.

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By Father Rafael Ibarguren EP – Ecclesiastical Assistant to the Eucharistic Works of the Church.

 

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