The Passover of the new Law materializes in the Person of the Saviour Himself, who passes us on to eternal life, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said on Holy and Great Thursday. He also explained how the Last Supper reveals the mystery of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection: through it, He showed His disciples His sacrificial love for all humankind.
On the Thursday before the Crucifixion, the Saviour instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as forgiveness of sins and a provision for eternal life, but also as fulfilment in His Person of those prefigured in the Old Testament.
“The Passover lamb, which was sacrificed at the Jewish Passover, prefigured Him, the Lamb Who would be sacrificed on the Cross by crucifixion at the Passover of the Jews,” said the Patriarch of Romania. Thus, “the entire Old Testament was a preparation and a guide to Christ.”
The Lord “instituted the new Passover” through a blessing ceremony that was common among the Jews (the bread and the glass of wine were blessed) and to which He gave new content:
“The Saviour Jesus Christ identifies the bread with His Body and the wine with His Blood. And He says, ‘Take and eat, this is My body, broken for you unto forgiveness of sins.’ And he took the cup, and said, ‘This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ So through this new Passover, the Passover of the new Law, the New Covenant, the New Testament, is instituted. ”
“The Passover is Christ Himself, who was prefigured or anticipated in the Lamb of the Jewish Pascha. This Holy Mystery of the Mystical Supper, or of the Eucharist, which means thanksgiving to God for all existence, for life and for help, but also the pillar of eternal life, this work is performed especially on Holy and Great Thursday,” Patriarch Daniel noted April 29.
Holy Eucharist, the centre of the spiritual life of the Church
The Holy Eucharist, instituted on the Holy and Great Thursday by Christ, is the centre of the spiritual life of the Church because the Lord Himself is present in it, the Patriarch of Romania explained.
In the prayers of the Divine Liturgy, it is said that “He brings Himself and He brings the gifts before the Father together with the Church. He brings Himself as a sacrifice, being also the one who performs the sacrifice, and trains us in His holy work of humble and merciful love, which is the Holy Eucharist,” His Beatitude highlighted.
St. John the Evangelist, unlike the other three synoptic evangelists, shows in his Gospel the profound meaning of the Holy Eucharist: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6: 56, 55).
This means that Holy Communion is more than the forgiveness of sins that the other three evangelists are talking about. “It is the pillar of eternal life,” the Patriarch of Romania explained.
“Here we see that although we partake of something, the Body and Blood of the Lord, we unite with Someone, that is, we unite with the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the source of eternal life,” His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel noted.
“Because St. John states the words of the Saviour:” He who eats My flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me and I in him.” He goes from something, that is, the Body and the Blood, to the Person of Someone, to the Person of Christ. In other words, when we partake of Christ, we receive His Life, the pillar of eternal life.”
“So this is how the Holy Eucharist is Christ the Lord Himself, He is our Passover. The word Pascha means passing over. The passing was through the Red Sea, from slavery to freedom. But now the transition is from death to life and from earth to heaven,” the Patriarch added.
“Pascha now no longer refers to a historical experience of a people who were in captivity, but now to the whole of humanity, namely, that resurrection is given through Christ. Therefore, the proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection is made outside the church, because all people will be resurrected, both those who believed in Christ and those who did not. Everyone will be resurrected,” Patriarch Daniel said.
“The resurrection is God’s exclusive gift to all people. But the joy after the Universal Resurrection and the Last Judgment depends on the faith and freedom and deeds of every human being. So life is a gift of God, but eternal gladness or eternal unhappiness depends on our freedom to respond or not to respond to God’s love.”
Photography courtesy of Basilica.ro / Mircea Florescu