The Holy and Great Thursday Commemorations
Along with the commemoration of the Lord’s washing of the disciples’ feet, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas, the Church commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, on Great and Holy Thursday. At the Mystical Supper in the Upper Room Jesus gave a dramatically new meaning to the food and drink of the sacred meal. He identified Himself with the bread and wine: “Take, eat; this is my Body. Drink of it all of you; for this is my Blood of the New Covenant” (Matthew 26:26-28).
Food had always sustained the earthly existence of everyone, but in the Eucharist the Lord gave us a distinctively unique human food – bread and wine – that by the power of the Holy Spirit, has become our gift of life. Consecrated and sanctified, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. This change is not physical but mystical and sacramental. While the qualities of the bread and wine remain, we partake of the true Body and Blood of Christ. In the eucharistic meal God enters into such a communion of life that He feeds humanity with His own being, while still remaining distinct. In the words of St. Maximos the Confessor, Christ, “transmits to us divine life, making Himself eatable.” The Author of life shatters the limitations of our createdness. Christ acts so that “we might become sharers of divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
From the moment Christ instituted this Mystery, the Eucharist became the center of the Church’s life, and her most profound prayer. The Eucharist is both the source and the summit of our life in Christ. It is in the Eucharist that the Church is changed from a mere human community into the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and the People of God. The Eucharist is the pre-eminent sacrament, as it completes all the others and recapitulates the entire economy of salvation. Through the Eucharist our new life in Christ is renewed and increased. The Eucharist imparts life and the life it gives is the life of God.
With love in Christ,
About the author
Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of the Monastery of the All-Merciful Saviour, which was established in 1986 by Archimandrite Dimitry (Egoroff) of blessed memory. The Monastery is under the omophore of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.