Lent Reflection: The Last Supper and The Paschal mystery

By David Morson

The word “paschal” refers to new life and new beginnings at spring time when flowers start to shoot up and the darkness of winter begins to dissapear with the emergence of lighter days. It is no coincidence that the story of our redemption in Holy Week takes place at this time. The Holy Father set the exact date of Easter every Year at the 7th Nissan of the New Moon, which happens at the end of March to mid April. It is set at the same time as the Jewish Passover which Jesus both celebrated and transformed with His disciples.

In Greek,the word time has two meanings. “Kronos” from which we get our concept of time as everyday, chronological, second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour etc. But, there is also another word, “Kyros” which means a special time of significant happening. For us, it could be a birthday or anniversary, but for the Jews, the Feast of the Passover commemorated the ultimate Kyros when God intervened in history to free them from slavery in Egypt and make them His own chosen people, establishing a covenant or “agreement” that they were His people when they kept His Commandments given to Moses in the desert.

Likewise, for Christians the ultimate Kyros moment was God’s intervention in human history in the Person of Jesus.

For us, “kronos type meals” are everyday routine,breakfast, lunch and dinner. We need to ingest food, which becomes part of us, in order to give us the energy to live. But meals are also social events, sharing with others, family and friends or strangers in a restaurant or pub. Kyros meals such as birthday parties or anniversaries are celebrations and involve special people, special food items, eg. birthday cake and usually involve some sort of remembering or reflection.

For the Feast of the Passover, Jewish families assemble together from all over to celebrate and commemorate this special event in their history, Ingredients are important. In the Seder Meal, they have lamb to remind them of the sacrifice of the lamb they were told to make, so that the Angel of Death would Passover their homes. Bitter herbs remind them of their suffering and slavery in Egypt and eggs, the faithfulness of God. What is vitally significant is when families today eat the same Passover meal as their ancestors did over 3,000 years ago. They are not simply remembering or reflecting, but actually associating themselves with the same experience of salvation, now as then. By eating the same Meal they are actually united with the saving event.

In the same way, Jesus wanted to celebrate the Passover with His friends. The Gospels tell us that He arranged the room where the Meal should take place and He acted as host, washing his disciples feet as guests.

I would like you now to search “Jesus Of Nazareth The Last Supper” on iPlayer, and please watch it. It lasts 5 minutes 58 seconds.

What the extract does not show you is the arrival of the disciples dancing and chanting the psalms in great anticipation of the celebration. Instead, it starts when the mood changes to great intense solemnity as Jesus institutes the Eucharist in the first ever Mass.

I personally find Robert Powell’s portrayal of Jesus so moving throughout, but especially in this scene.

The extract shows all the elements of the New Passover Covenant or “agreement” with God where Jesus offers His own Body and Blood in an act of salvation for the whole world. He wants us to associate ourselves with His actions by partaking of the Bread and Wine which becomes His Body andBlood. He is the new Paschal, “Lamb of God”. This happens, because He lays down His life for us in the greatest possible gift of unconditional love. “No greater love has any man than He who lays down His life for His friends”. As such by His death, Jesus reveals the “glory” or real essence of God the Father and unites and restores humanity with His Life and Being.