One memory I have from my childhood was preparing for my first communion. I begged and pleaded with my parents to go to the Holy Thursday and Good Friday services. I honestly don’t remember much except that I felt as if I was witnessing the Institution of the Eucharist for the first time in history and then following the cross on Good Friday as we meditated on the Stations of the Cross. The Last Supper and Christ’s death and resurrection are linked together through more than just two feast days in Lent. They both have to do with the Passover meal and how Christ fulfills the purpose of the ritual that began long before he was born.
For the purposes of this particular meditation, I’m gonna be citing from Scott Hahn’s The Fourth Cup which I highly recommend that you read. In his book, Hahn explains that the ritual of the Passover involves drinking four cups. The first cup is a blessing cup. The second cup is shared at the beginning of the Passover ritual. The third cup is taken during the actual meal. The last cup occurs at the climax of the Passover.
At this point, Jesus has taken three of the four cups, the third cup being the one he consecrates as his Blood. His disciples sing the psalms as called for by the ritual. However, Jesus does not take the fourth cup. Instead, they go onto the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s basically the equivalent of ending a football game in the start of the fourth quarter or an action movie ending before the big fight scene.
What’s going on here? Keep in mind that before they left for the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said “I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I am entering into the kingdom of God.” When he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he pleaded with his Father to “take this cup away from me.”
So what is the fourth cup? According to Scott Hahn, the fourth cup that Jesus took to finish the Passover meal was the vinegar that was given to him when he cried “I thirst.” Then once he drank the vinegar, he said “It is finished,” took one last breath, and died. At first, like a lot of people, I thought that it meant that his mission to redeem us was finished. However, our salvation came from the Resurrection, not from his death.
Think back to the Passover sacrifice and then read the story of the Passion with Isaiah’s song of the Suffering Servant in mind. Jesus’s death ended the Passover ritual that he started in the previous night. Then let’s go back to John’s Gospel. At this point, the soldiers are breaking the legs of the two thieves next to Jesus in order to make their deaths quicker. But Jesus was already dead. Instead of breaking his legs, a soldier pierced Jesus’s side and blood and water gushed out of it. If you’re familiar with the Divine Mercy Chaplet, you may have heard this prayer: “O Blood and Water that gushed forth from the Heart of Christ, as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in You.” This is where that prayer comes from.
But the story isn’t over yet. As we know, Christ’s sacrifice was only the beginning. I hope that you go to Adoration today and meditate on Christ’s passion and death as you sit in His presence. God bless, my dear sisters in Christ.