In my reflections on the Fifth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, the Institution of the Blessed Eucharist, I have of late been struck by our Lord’s words to His Apostles:
“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Lk. 22:15 (RSV)
This is also sometimes rendered as:
“‘I have ardently longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (New Jerusalem)
It has struck me because I cannot imagine making sense of this statement if the Last Supper was just the first of many symbolic meals, as many non-Catholics would claim.
I think we have two options:
- Either He is longing for this particular Supper in itself, as a unique and precious event with His Apostles.
- Or He is only longing for it insofar as it means that His suffering is near, and He longs for His suffering because He longs to save us, the sheep He loves so dearly.
- [Or a combination of both]
Think about it. The the pure longing, desire, craving, yearning that Our Lord expresses here, does that match up with an understanding of the Lord’s Supper as mere symbol and remembrance (in the shallow sense of the word)? I don’t think so. If the bread and wine remain as bread and wine, and we “remember” in the sense that we just “think about” what Jesus did for us, then Jesus hasn’t really changed the Passover all that much. The meal is still just a meal, and we just think about a different saving act of God, albeit an amazing one.
This is possible in one sense, because surely it is true that in His divinity Christ did have a longing to do whatever necessary for our salvation. I think certainly this reading could be part of what He meant.
However, in seeking His primary meaning, I don’t think it fits. Notice what He says:
“I have ardently longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
The key is in that second part. What has longed to do? To eat this particular Passover. With who? His Apostles, currently gathered with Him. And when? Before He suffers. This I think separates the Passover and the suffering, in terms of what He’s referring to. His longing has been specifically for this pre-suffering moment, the sharing of this particular meal, which is a Passover meal, with His Apostles.
Furthermore, we mustn’t forget that He was God incarnate. As such, He was speaking of eating, which He does in His humanity, so it is reasonable to think also that He is longing in a human sense also, which brings me to this point:
He is approaching His death. Immediately after this event He goes to the garden where His trepidation, anxiety and stress about what is coming are quite evident. I think its fairly safe to say it didn’t just suddenly appear at that moment, but rather He was masking it rather well, and only towards the end does He allow His suffering to begin to manifest itself. Thus, I think it unlikely that He meant to say that He was longing for the meal as a kind of marker or signpost of the fact that His suffering was imminent.
Stay tuned for the more likely explanation!!!