We have just heard Saint Matthew’s Haggadah of Christ’s Passover (26-27), beginning with his account of the Last Supper, which was a Seder Supper or Passover meal, according to Saints Paul, Mark, Matthew and Luke.
We heard in great detail of Christ’s institution of the Eucharist as his zik- karon (memorial) in the Cenacle or Upper Room, of his agony in the garden and his betrayal by Judas Iscariot. We heard of Christ’s arrest by the chief priests and elders of the people and his trial before them for blasphemy.
Saint Matthew poignantly told us of Peter’s three-fold denial of his Lord, and of Christ being handed over to the Roman authorities on a new charge of sedition.
We heard of Pilate’s reluctance to put Jesus to death, and of the Roman’s cowardice before the crowd. We heard as well of the soldiers playing the “Game of Kings” with their condemned prisoner, and then heard Matthew’s account of Christ’s death and its cosmic significance—the heavens are darkened, the curtain of the earthly temple is torn in two and an earthquake erupts from under the earth — just as we will hear next of the cosmic significance of Christ’s resurrection, when again the earth will shake and earthly guards fall to the ground, as the Risen One prepares to take his seat at the right hand of the power of heaven.
Before that, we heard Saint Paul’s powerful reflection on Christ’s emptying of himself (kenosis) in becoming man and his humble obedience to his Father:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, tak- ing the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
By hearing the Haggadah of Christ’s suffering and death, in all its somber detail on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday, we cultivate the memory of the sacrifice that saves us, lest we forget, lest we find ourselves unable to celebrate whole-heartedly the zikkaron of his Passover, lest we relegate that saving event to the past, rather than make it come alive in the present, so that it can touch our lives with its saving power. It is vitally important that we remember, commemorate and make memory of the death of God’s Son and of his rising. Our personal appropriation of the gift of salvation hangs on it. Through the saving power of God’s word, the Haggadah in which Christ’s death for us is retold, and our prayer- ful response, we are moved to receive again the pledge of future glory in Holy Communion. We can do so only because of our faith in his resurrection from the dead, his Passover from death to life, which we are celebrating during Holy Week.
As I mentioned in the previous edition, the Lord is inviting all of us to fully take part in the great celebrations of the Lord’s dying and rising during Holy Week: the Chrism Mass was held at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Savannah on Tuesday, April 11, at 7 p.m.; A Tenebrae Service was celebrated Wednesday and, above all, the Paschal Triduum: the Vigil Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the eve of Good Friday (i.e., Holy Thursday) the Afternoon Liturgy of Good Friday, and the Vigil Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection—the first Mass of Easter Sunday — the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, —at which those elected for baptism are initiated into the Church through Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
During this Mass and the Masses of Easter Sunday through out the world, we will sing with all our hearts: “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Let us feast with joy in the Lord.”
Father Douglas K. Clark STL is Pastor of Saint Matthew Church, Statesboro.