Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Last Supper and the agony at Gethsemani

As we get closer to the Great Triduum, the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, which anticipate the Great Sunday, I found it fitting to briefly share with you what Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us in the Last Supper and how it corresponds with his agony in Gethsemani and his Crucifixion on the Cross at Calvary from the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which will be commemorated on Holy Thursday, is where Our Lord freely offers his life at the Last Supper with and to the Apostles. It is then their duty to perpetuate it to the faithful after His Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

During the Passover Meal, there were four cups that were to be drunk before the meal was said to be complete. As we will see in tomorrow’s blog post, The Four Cups of the Passover Meal, the fourth cup is what Jesus makes reference to in the Garden of Gethsemani. The fourth cup is the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. In the words, after he drinks the vinegar (wine) on the Cross, “It is finished”, (“It is consummated”) is the completion of the sacrificial meal.

Let us turn our attention now to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the free offering of Jesus’ life and the agony at Gethsemani –

“Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve Apostles ‘on the night he was betrayed’. On the eve of his Passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: ‘This is my body which is given for you.” ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” [#610].

passion_supper

The Eucharist that Christ institutes at that moment will be the memorial of his sacrifice. Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them perpetuate it. By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant: ‘For their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’” [#611].

“The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani, making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…’ Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death. Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”. By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for ‘he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’” [#612].

Jesus in the Garden - Passion of Christ film

For more study on the this subject, I would encourage you to read my first Quick Lessons from the Catechism, The Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Also, don’t forget to return tomorrow for an explanation of the Four Cups of the Passover Meal.

3 thoughts on “Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Last Supper and the agony at Gethsemani

  1. Hi Tom, This is a great, short explanation of the moment in history. I would like to add, that when share this with children, in The Catechesis of The Good Shepherd, we also add that this was the first time that anyone had ever heard the words,”This is my body, this is my blood”. Until this point no ears had ever heard such words. Now at every mass we hear these words. I wonder what the apostles thought when they first heard this proclamation?

  2. Tom,

    This lesson was wonderful. I am trying to view the Supper of the Lamb as a covenant oath. Indeed it is Christ swearing the oath of the New Covenant. He takes on the curses of the Old Covenant and then establishes the New Covenant that is sworn and sealed by a meal – a sacrificial meal that is a gift of His very self. Just like the Passover meal sealed the Old Covenant, so now does the oath taken in the Supper of the Lamb seal the New. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the feast.”

    Gary Livacari

  3. Tom,

    This lesson was wonderful. I am trying to view the Supper of the Lamb as a covenant oath. Indeed it is Christ swearing the oath of the New Covenant. He takes on the curses of the Old Covenant and then establishes the New Covenant that is sworn and sealed by a meal – a sacrificial meal that is a gift of His very self. Just like the Passover meal sealed the Old Covenant, so now does the oath taken in the Supper of the Lamb seal the New. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the feast.”

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