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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Last Supper -- and the Passover Liturgy

The Eucharist
The Cup of Blessing 

Lenten Reflections from a Father who keeps His Promises   by Scott Hahn









Tuesday of Holy Week


“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” – 1 Corinthians 10:16

As I studied the ancient Jewish Passover liturgy, I learned that the seder meal was divided into four parts, which correspond to the four different cups that were served.  The preliminary course consisted of a  solemn blessing pronounced over the first cup of wine, which was followed by a dish of bitter herbs.  Next the Passover narrative was recited, after which Psalm 113 was sung.  Drinking the second cup of wine immediately followed.

Third, the main meal was served, consisting of lamb and unleavened bread, which proceeded the drinking of the third cup of wine, known as the “cup of blessing”.  Finally the climax of the Passover came with the singing of Psalms 114—118 and drinking the fourth cup of wine, the “cup of consummation.”

The Last Supper
Many New Testament scholars see this pattern reflected in the Gospel narratives of the Last Supper.  In particular, the cup that Jesus blessed and distributed is identified as the third cup of the Passover meal. Paul identifies this “cup of blessing” with the cup of the Eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 10:16).

. . . . .

Wednesday of Holy Week 

“Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” – Mark 14:25


Instead of progressing immediately to the climax of the Passover by drinking the fourth cup, the disciples and Jesus went to the Mount of Olives (see Mark 14:26).

For students of the Passover, Jesus’ skipping the fourth cup is almost the practical equivalent of a priest’s omitting words of consecration at Mass or forgetting Communion! Why did Jesus choose not to drink the fourth cup?


There in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39).  What cup was Jesus talking about?  Some scholars identify the cup as “the cup of God’s wrath” frequently mentioned by the Old Testament prophets (see Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15).  However, a more basic connection is the more immediate context of Passover, which Jesus had just been celebrating.


Agony in the Garden

I then turned to the Gospel of John.  For John, the hour of Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and death is also the hour of this greatest glory.  His abject humiliations constitute his exaltation; his apparent defeat at the hands of his enemies is seen as his supreme triumph; his death is actually the event that brings life to the world.


So, the “it” that was finished was the Passover that Jesus had begun—but interrupted—in the Upper Room!  

Its completion was marked by Jesus drinking sour 
whine on Golgotha; the fourth cup.  

And Jesus calls us, as his disciples, to not only partake of the cup of blessing (the third cup) which we share in the Eucharist, but also of this fourth cup by dying for him (see Mark 10:38).  Only then is the paschal mystery truly fulfilled in us.



Excerpts from Lenten Reflections from a Father who keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn

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