by V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
I would never have imagined that one day I could sit with our Lord Jesus Christ and share a meal with Him. I cannot imagine how overwhelming it would feel to see Jesus among us, eating with us.
One of the holiest and most mystical moments in the liturgy takes place when the celebrant raises the bread and the wine of the Holy Eucharist. The faithful will hear Jesus’ words from His Last Supper.
The celebrant takes the bread, gives thanks, blesses it, and raises it. He repeats Jesus’ words from the Last Supper:
“Take, eat; this is my body, which is distributed for you and for many, for the expiation and remission of sins.”
Likewise, he takes the chalice, gives thanks, blesses it, and raises it, saying:
“Drink this all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the expiation and remission of sins.”
This sequence takes us back to our Lord’s Last Supper, when He shared His Paschal meal with the holy apostles and changed the course of humanity. It forms the core of the Holy Eucharist, and reminds us why the faithful gather around one Holy Table to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. It compresses and concludes Jesus’ life and ministry. The Holy Eucharist gives us the opportunity to partake in Jesus’ life and salvation. When we partake in the Holy Communion, we can taste Christ’s salvation.
The Jews celebrated the feast of Pascha to commemorate God liberating them from slavery in Egypt. God honored them as His people and gave them to live in freedom in their land. He protected the Jews from all ten plagues that struck Egypt. Their first born were saved from death. They escaped from Pharaoh’s persecution through the Red Sea. Finally, after wandering in the wilderness, they found their home in Canaan. (Exodus 11-12)
Christ gave new meaning to the Paschal ritual. Rather than a lamb, Christ sacrificed Himself for our salvation. The one who suffered and was sacrificed on the Holy Cross handed over His body and blood, gifting us His life. The source of life, Jesus, was going to die, to pay the price for our sins. Now, Jesus offers Himself to you. His tortured, beaten, crucified and resurrected body is offered to you. Humanity has never experienced a deeper love.
This holy moment presents the faithful with an opportunity to feel the overwhelming experience that Christ endured on our behalf. Our Lord Jesus Christ bore our sins. He bore them on His human body for us to have the grace of salvation. Imagine carrying around a bag full of all your sins. It would be exhausting. We all know how much we sin. How big of a relief would it be for someone to take that bag and carry it for us? Jesus did just that as He carried our sins and was raised on the Holy Cross. As the celebrant raises the gifts of the Holy Eucharist, we should meditate on the moment that Jesus raised the bread and the wine. He raised our sins and our weak human nature, to be sanctified, purified and cleansed on the Holy Cross. Our Lord’s salvific blood keeps death away.
When the celebrant raises the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the faithful witness Jesus’ ascent on the Holy Cross. In this moment, Jesus overcomes our sins. Jesus triumphs over sin and death. Our sins are carried by the grace of our Savior and sanctified, so we may experience the glorious Kingdom of God. In this moment, we are invited home to God’s Kingdom, the true Canaan. Pharaoh has no authority on us, unless we give it up to him. Our bodies are raised with our Lord on the Holy Cross.
God honors, liberates, and spiritually empowers us. At this moment, we should meditate as follows:
“My Lord, My Savior and My Master, You dedicated Your body and blood so death cannot approach me. Instead of me, You died on the cross, when I am the one who sins. In return, receive me, my body and my soul with my complete love. Raise my sinful being with Your Holy Eucharist. Purify it with Your own blood. Restore and renew it from my sins, not because I deserve your forgiveness, but because You do not deserve to have a sinful child. Have mercy on me, not so I shine as a purified person, but so I shine with the grace and glory for Your Holy Kingdom. May no one miss the chance to receive Your Body and Blood, but may every creature on earth glorify Your Holy name, amen.”