This week we Lectio the Liturgy with Preface II for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The Preface is the first part of the Eucharistic Prayer, and this week it is quite long, however, the first paragraph has much too think about.
The prayer begins with
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord.
For at the Last Supper with his Apostles, establishing for the ages to come the saving memorial of the Cross, he offered himself to you as the unblemished Lamb, the acceptable gift of perfect praise.
Nourishing your faithful by this sacred mystery, you make them holy, so that the human race, bounded by one world, may be enlightened by one faith and united by one bond of charity.
And so, we approach the table of this wondrous Sacrament, so that, bathed in the sweetness of your grace, we may pass over to the heavenly realities here foreshadowed.
The first time I read this prayer, three short phrases jumped out at me. The phrases were “Last Supper” and “pass over” and I wondered how those two fit in with the phrase, “perfect praise.”
We remember the Passover in Exodus 12. God tells Moses that the people must prepare unleavened bread and kill a one year old unblemished lamb and put its blood over the lentil and down the door posts of their house and when He sees the blood, he will pass over and no death will fall upon those houses.
In the Old Testament, a sacrifice was never a clean process. There was blood involved. Vine’s Expository Dictionary teaches that the sacrifice represented the principle that, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. Blood sacrifices in the Old Testament all point to the sacrifice of Jesus. However, on a Passover, over a thousand years after the first one, the disciples had no idea that this year it would be different.
In Luke chapter 22, we join Jesus and his disciples celebrating Passover, we now call it the Last Supper. Jesus goes off script. He took the bread and told the disciples that this was His body which will be given up for them. He then took the chalice of wine and told them that this was his blood, which will shed for the forgiveness of sins.
The disciples didn't know at the time, but Jesus was showing the them on Thursday what would happen to Him on Friday. He, the unblemished Lamb of God, would be sacrificed.
I tried to imagine what the disciples must have thought that weekend, how, for them, the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together. Recalling Jesus’ words, “Unless you drink my blood and eat my flesh you will not have life within you.” Then Jesus declared that the this was His body and blood and moreover, “Do this in memory of Me.” And they did, as we still do today.
So how does this connect with perfect praise? Often times I go in search of a definition only to find out that what I was looking for was right in the prayer. The acceptable gift of perfect praise is the unblemished lamb, Jesus, offering himself to the Father. In the Mass, with the right disposition, we, too, can be perfect praise.
During the preparation of the gifts at Mass, the priest asks us to, “Pray, my brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” We respond, “May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands…” The sacrifice offered is the bread and wine, it is Jesus offering himself to the Father, and we, too give ourselves as a offering of perfect praise.
What we receive in return is a gift beyond all measure. We receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The same Body and Blood that the disciples received at the Last Supper. The same Body and Blood that had been foretold throughout the Old Testament.
It’s all about Jesus. The Passover pointed to Him. For over 1,300 years, His people celebrated Passover, awaiting his coming. At the Last Supper he taught us how he would always be with us by giving us His Body and Blood in the bread and wine. On the Cross, when he offered himself in perfect praise to the Father, he purchased our redemption. We are a part of the “ages to come.” The Body and Blood of Jesus are our very life, given to us, not because we deserve them, but they are given to us because of the Father’s love for us. It’s only by his grace that we can pass over to the heavenly realities of the Kingdom.
Thanks for praying with me,