Today is Holy Thursday and in the evening hours wherever they may be, Catholics all around the world will celebrate the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The final meal Jesus enjoyed with his disciples before his death. The meal during which he instituted the Eucharist.
During the Eucharistic Prayer in each Mass, we hear a variation on the words we will hear this evening from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, that “the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
This is my body. This is my blood. Thomas Merton records an experience he had once at a Mass in Havana during the moment of Consecration. The priest raised the Host and then the chalice, immediately after which a group of young schoolchildren shout out the words of the Creed, “Creo en Dios.” At that moment, he writes,
as sudden as the shout and as definite, and a thousand times more bright, there formed in my mind an awareness, an understanding, a realization of what had just taken place on the altar, at the Consecration: a realization of God made present in the words of Consecration in a way that made Him belong to me….It was as if I had been suddenly illuminated by being blinded by the manifestation of God’s presence….[This awareness] ignored all sense experience in order to strike directly at the heart of truth, as if a sudden and immediate contact had been established between my intellect and the Truth Who was now physically really and substantially before me on the altar….And the first articulate thought that came to my mind was: “Heaven is right here in front of me.”
This is my body. This is my blood. We hear the words so often, it is easy to miss their enormity. The physically real and substantial actual presence of Christ each time we fulfill the command Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper to “Do this in remembrance of me.”