Holy Thursday, 4/2/15
Jesus, settling down for the Last Supper, spoke from the depths of his soul, saying, “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
Having said that, Jesus went on to lead the Apostles through the established table blessing, which had roughly the same sequence of prayers offered up by the priest in our Mass. Jesus began with the Anamnesis, which then, as now, consists in calling to mind the favors we have received from God.
Jesus then moved on to what they called the Epiclesis. By that he was asking the Apostles to be aware of God’s presence among them. (At the Epiclesis in our Masses the priest makes us aware of God’s Holy Spirit having come among us to unite and to inspire us.)
The climax of that table blessing was called the Eucharistas . (Literally, the word means “pleasing gift.). By that prayer at the Last Supper Jesus asked the Apostles to join intimately with him as one pleasing gift to God.
Both St. Paul and St. Luke in their accounts of the Last Supper, clearly stated that it was at that point in the Last Supper that Jesus gave himself to them under the forms of bread and wine. He wanted them to be, not only mentally, but physically one with him in the same pleasing gift, the same Eucharist.
Both Paul and Luke (in the Greek language accounts they wrote) quoted Jesus as saying, “This is my body which is given for you,” and “This is the cup of my blood which is shed for you.” The translators of our English language Bibles have changed the tense of the verbs that Paul and Luke used in quoting Jesus. They make Jesus say, "This is my body will be given, this is the cup of my blood which will be shed."
Presumably, our translators felt that Jesus was looking forward only to the sacrifice he would make of himself the next day. But it might be that they were describing Jesus as making a real start on his great sacrifice at the Last Supper. It was at the Eucharistas portion of that table blessing that Jesus gave himself to us.
First Century Christian communities had a handbook telling them how to conduct their rituals. The book was called “The Teaching of he Apostles,” but it was commonly known by the Greek word for teaching, which was “Didache.” With no reference to a priest conducting the ritual, it referred to their Eucharistic celebrations as the sacrifice of their selves for which they had to be spiritually worthy of being gifts to God.