Thoughts of Holy Thursday: Of Remembering and Presence

In my end is my beginning.
In my end is my beginning.

NB: this is an extremely hastily written reflection. So it is more poetic than normal. So enjoy or else accept my apologies.
Tonight is Holy Thursday. Tonight, we step outside of this moment, the linear progression of time. Tonight we do not focus on how our actions pile upon each other moving us throughout life. Because tonight we celebrate the profound revelation in which a sign becomes a sacrament: not merely referencing holy things, but in a mysterious and wonderful way taking on the whole reality which before it could only point out. Today, we return to that First Mass and Final Passover. We return the last time the blood of lambs covered our doors to hide us from Death’s passing, and we return to the first time the Body and Blood of the Lamb under the aspect of bread and wine would give us Life.

That had been the challenge: man could Fall and be covered by animal skins, Abraham could offer a ram in the place of his son, Jacob could wear the coverings of goats to appear as Esau, an offering of atonement could bear sin into the desert, men could be circumcised. And yet, these acts are external: the show covering, exchange, mercy for the limitation of being human: we cannot give what we do not have. We cannot be the cause of an action that is beyond our capacity. We cannot love as we should.

Tonight, we live that first mass in our masses, living anew that moment when the sign: bread and wine, are substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so that when we point to the altar, though in appearance it is bread and wine, though the outward characteristics appear unchanged, it is profoundly and wholly Christ. The Word Who assumed Flesh and Blood has given us that Flesh as true food and that Blood as true drink. In receiving the Eucharist, we receive a sign of a holy thing that makes us holy. We do not cover our dwellings with the blood of lambs, exchanging life for life; we become in a profoundly physical manner a dwelling place for God, enlivening life by Life.

Tonight let us return to what is now, and whatever shall be. The hinge of history, of ages and aveum, of knowledge and will, of what was and is and is to come is represented to us and now.

As T.S. Eliot said in the fifth movement of Ash Wednesday:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the daytime and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

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