In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this,
as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
—1 Corinthians 11.25
From a lectionary reading for Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday:
1 Corinthians 11.23-26
Reflection for Thursday, April 5 (Holy Thursday/Day 38 of Lent)
On a windy spring day long past, my friend Kary and I hurry through the streets of an art festival in downtown Atlanta. I am hosting a Communion service that evening, and we are searching in hopes of finding a potter who has a chalice that we can use. It’s nearly time for the festival to shut down when Kary and I, empty-handed, head down the last street. There, near the end of the street, we find a potter who has begun to pack up his booth. But among the pieces he still has out are several lovely earthenware chalices. I select one, and we leave the festival joyful and relieved, carrying the beautiful cup—the first chalice I would own—and its matching paten.
It has been a long time since I’ve thought of that spring day and the grail quest it held. But that’s what the table invites us to do: to remember, to gather around the cup of memory and the bread of celebration, to enter again into the stories—and the Story—that they hold. In today’s scripture reading, Paul’s telling of the story of the Last Supper is elegant in its utter simplicity. And heartbreaking. And brimming with hope.
In the years and centuries to follow this meal, the Christian tradition will spill vast quantities of ink over the meaning and doctrine of what takes place on this night. Yet Paul’s story, received from Christ and passed along to us, lays bare the essence of the gift: This is my body, Christ says with the bread in his hands, that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. Cradling the cup, Christ tells his table companions, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
Given. Poured out. For us.
This day, this Holy Thursday, beckons us to return to the table, to gather around the bread that has been offered to us, the cup that has been poured out for us. Yet this day will also send us out: away from the table and into the world, in search of those who hunger and thirst for what Christ gives: to us, through us. This is the real grail quest: to discern what to do with what we have been given, and then to do this. What path will the bread and the cup—and the One who offers them—impel you to take?
Blessing the Bread,
Let us bless the bread
that gives itself to us
with its terrible weight,
its infinite grace.
Let us bless the cup
poured out for us
with a love that drenches,
that makes us anew.
Let us gather
around these gifts
and deeply blessed.
And then let us go
bearing the bread,
carrying the cup,
laying the table
within a hungering world.
P.S. For previous reflections on Holy Thursday, click the images or titles below.
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