April 13, 2017: Vesperal Liturgy for Holy Thursday
The events recounted for us in the Gospel this morning–and for the next several services–are grim. Fear, anxiety, betrayal, torture, crucifixion and, finally, death. And yet there is also this morning one shining moment that cuts through the darkness.
Though the events of Good Friday and Holy Saturday are still in the future, in the Gospel today, for the Apostles at least, the work of Christ is accomplished.
No, Christ hasn’t yet been tried. He hasn’t yet be scourged or crucified. He hasn’t died yet nor has He descended into Hell to proclaim liberty to those who are held captive there.
And yet, for the disciples at the Last Supper, the work of Christ is accomplished.
Today they receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. For most of the disciples at least, their estrangement from God is now in the past. We must not let our focus on “Judas, the deceitful traitor,” the cowardice of the disciples or Peter’s threefold denial, blind us to what Christ accomplishes today in the life of His disciples.
Today, as every day, the Divine Light of Christ “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, NIV).
Recently there have been a number of books and articles, some by Orthodox authors, sounding a warning that our culture is in decay. While I don’t want to minimize the concerns these authors highlight, I find myself wondering, “When has the world not been corrupt?” And, more importantly, when has Christ not been victorious.
From the Fall of Adam until today, creation has been “subjected to futility,” in bondage waiting for the revelation of the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (see, Romans 18-25, NKJV).
But, from “before the foundation of the world” the Son has reigned (see 1 Peter 1, NKJV).
Turning for a moment from the events of Holy Thursday to our own life, what do we see? What lesson do we draw?
Just this, not matter how dark the world around us, not matter how much we fail, Jesus Christ remains as King and Victor over the powers of sin and death. There has never been a time when the world wasn’t corrupt and humanity not fallen.
But there has never been a time when Christ wasn’t victorious over sin and death. Of Jesus and His victory, the Apostle Paul says this:
…He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence (Colossians 1:15-18, NKJV).
Today at the Mystical Supper we see in the lives of the disciples a revelation of what will in a few days be true for all of us, all humanity and for the whole creation. Let us then not lose hope but rush to the Empty Tomb there to greet our Risen Lord!