Holy Mass: Christ’s Last Supper and Passion, Passover Fulfilled
During Holy Week we celebrate the great mysteries of our Faith, the Last Supper, Christ’s Passion and Death, and his Resurrection on Easter. Just as faithful Jews celebrate their Passover Seder, we participate in the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday liturgies, allowing us to accompany our Lord as he fulfills his earthly life and mission. This commemorates our Lord’s Passover, the Pascal Sacrifice of the Lamb of God that saved us from sin and death.
The Last Supper was a Passover meal. God sent Moses to free God’s people from slavery in Egypt, just as he had sent Christ to free us from the slavery of sin. God commanded Moses:
“Tell all the congregation of Israel… they shall take every man a lamb… [and they] shall kill their lambs in the evening. Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses… For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:3-12).
After having celebrated the Jewish Passover with the Apostles, Jesus instituted the definitive Passover by consecrating the bread into his Body given up for us, and the wine into his Blood shed for us: giving us, under the appearances of bread and wine the Sacrifice he would offer next day on Mount Calvary, his blood being left on the doorpost and lintel—on the wood of the Cross while dying on the holy wood. As St. Paul writes: “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed; therefore let us keep the feast” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
When the Jews celebrate the Seder Meal, they relive the first Passover. They enter into that event by eating the Passover Lamb. Every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, Jesus Christ re-presents (brings back) to us his Last Supper, the fulfillment of the Seder Meal; He becomes our Passover Lamb that is sacrificed on the Cross and we Catholics are able to experience that “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
There is only one sacrifice that fulfills the Passover, both for the Old and New Testaments: Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The Holy Mass is the same sacrifice, such that there is only one, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us:
“The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross…’” (CCC 1367 quoting the Council of Trent).
“When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. ‘As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out” (CCC 1364, quoting the Vatican II).
Let us deepen our love for what Christ did out of love for us by accompanying our Lord closely on the approaching feasts of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and every time we attend Holy Mass.
Fr. John R. Waiss