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Glancing Thoughts
Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper
(Holy Thursday)
April 9, 2020
Eleonore Stump

Wildness, Stillness

In the last great plague God visited upon Egypt, he killed all the first-born among animals and those among every human family—but not in the community of the Jews in Egypt. In that community each family put the blood of a lamb on its doorpost and there was no death among any of them. In the Exodus from Egypt, God instituted the Passover for the Jewish community. Every year, the Jews were to celebrate their liberation from Egypt by offering God a lamb, in the place of their firstborn, whom God spared. During the Exodus, God also commanded the Jews not to eat the blood of anything. In Egypt, blood was smeared on the doorpost to save the Jews from death. And so meat with blood in it wasn’t for ordinary eating.

And so in the story of the passion and death of the Lord, all the old images are exploded in complicated patterns.
Now, we are conscious that there are things more destructive to human well-being than slavery in Egypt. Within every human being, there is slavery to the evil that kills beauty and joy. There is also something worse than biological death. There is a living death that never ends, and it is more to be feared than the death of the body.

And so in the story of the passion and death of the Lord, all the old images are exploded in complicated patterns that theologians have traced for ages. There is still a first-born son who dies. But now it is the first-born son of God. He dies in order to free us from our slavery to sin, not to Egypt. The death of the Paschal lamb keeps us from the living death into which our sins bury us.

All these images come together in the Eucharist, which the Lord instituted before his passion. In that ritual, which we preserve in the liturgy of the mass, we drink blood, the blood of the incarnate Son, God’s paschal lamb, sacrificed to save us. Only, when we do, his blood in the wine is not transformed into our bodies, as ordinary food is. Instead, it makes us into the body of the Lord, whose blood it is. And through this sacrifice, his Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, uniting us to himself.

What a wild love it is that does these things, that suffers these things! What can anyone say to do it justice? Stillness before it is our best response.

Eleonore Stump
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go http://www.ltp.org