Last night at our Easter Vigil we initiated seven persons into the Catholic Church: two through Baptism and Holy Eucharist, five through a Profession of Faith, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist. While Baptism is always the first Sacrament a person receives, Eucharist is the highest. In this Sacrament, Jesus Himself abides with us as our pledge of heaven. In the Holy Mass He comes to us as memorial, sacrifice, and banquet. These themes fit into the Easter Triduum:
Memorial: When you “remember” someone, biblically speaking, you act on his behalf. God “remembered” childless wives like Hannah and Elizabeth with children who would do great things for Him. The Psalmist boasted of how God, in His mercy, “remembered” Israel in her distress, countlessly saving her from distresses both self-inflicted (sin) and enemy-inflicted (oppression).
On Holy Thursday, the night before His death, Jesus "remembered" His apostles: He washed their feet. He gave them His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He entrusted them with the power to make that Body and Blood present on our altars; in other moments He entrusted the power to forgive sins, to anoint the sick, and to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Sacrifice: Sacrifice is the heart of religion. The Jews, in particular, sacrificed their best animals and produce in order to demonstrate to God and to themselves that God deserved the best of their love. To purely materialist minds, it seems like the biggest waste; in a sense they’d be right. By spending our time and attention on divine things, somehow our perspective on earthly things changes. They become at once more important and less important: more, because now we want to use those things well, and less, because we know they're not all there is to this life.
On Good Friday, Jesus followed through on the promise of Holy Thursday by offering His fully divine and fully human life. Everything He endured, from the lies that people levied against Him to the physical and mental torture to the crucifixion itself, He endured for our salvation. At every step, love was His motivation; no other reason would do.
Banquet: People need to eat. The act of eating often provides as much emotional satisfaction as physical. Food finds its way into most gestures of hospitality, welcoming, congratulating, and mourning—in a word, every human interaction. With good intentions we flash it around whenever we want to impress people. Among all cultures the Italians come to mind with that word, abbondanza, which to my mind includes food, but encompasses all wealth and every expression of value.
On Holy Saturday, death’s scarcity becomes life’s abbondanza when Jesus treats the souls of the blessed to His eternal wedding feast, when He forever unites Himself to His Church in a total bond of fidelity, permanence, and fruitfulness.
The quiet Upper Room meal, the Silence of the Lamb that was slain, the darkness of the grave: these three days together form one great, mysterious day of joy and hope. We know too well how our sorrows and sins can get the better of us, but the Lord Jesus declares to us once and for all--and as often as necessary--that sin, suffering, and death do not have the final say on our lives, as long as we steep ourselves in the meaning and power of this most sacred day.
Christ our Life is risen from the dead, glorious and immortal. By our faithful participation in His Word, His Bread, and His Charity, it shall be so!