While they were eating
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, gave it to them, and said,
"Take it; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
"This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
A consummate storyteller, Saint Mark describes many very specific, apparently irrelevant, details about the Last Supper of Jesus. First there are Jesus' instructions to go into the city, follow a certain fellow, and charter the room he enters, where they should make preparations for a Passover meal. The Nazarene knew his way around Jerusalem even if his Galilean disciples didn't. This is all very deliberate and intentional. Jesus knows what will happen and when it will happen; but before then he will have commissioned his disciples to "Do this in memory of me."
Although the Mass took many different forms as it was carried from one city to another throughout the Roman Empire, and has been adapted and updated throughout the centuries, it retains that very clear connection to Jesus' intentions on that "first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb..."
But the Mass didn't exactly begin on that day either, for "the Feast of Unleavened Bread" commemorated the Exodus from Egypt. The Mass would mean little to those who know nothing of the Exodus; and even less to those who don't know who escaped Egypt; that is, the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, who were citizens of an already-ancient world we call the Fertile Crescent. This familiar rite of the Eucharist anchors us in the oldest story ever told, human history. We need that connection today, as the political, social and technological worlds rapidly evolve around us. If we're suffering future shock and no longer comfortable with the present, the familiar Sacrament assures us of God's presence in it.
We often use the word communion and the phrase Holy Communion to name this mystery. We remember that day when we made our First Communion. Every Mass begins with that wonderful greeting:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
I often play cards with our centenarian, Father Maurus and occasionally, when one of us gets an extraordinarily good, or bad, hand we are reminded, "This is like grace; I have neither earned it nor deserved it."
Communion with our Trinitarian God, with Mary our Mother, with the patriarchs, saints and angels, with the folks who attend our Mass in the VA chapel or at Mount Saint Francis -- I have neither earned or deserved. It is pure grace.