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In Rome, the station church today is St. John Lateran, the parish church of the Bishop of Rome. I remember walking the station churches with the seminarians of the North American College. It was done with convivial solemnity, recalling what is to be recalled this day, reenacting what was enacted for our salvation and the salvation of the world.

The day is called In Cena Domini , “At the Lord’s Supper.”

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end . And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.

With all things in his hands, he took, of all things, a towel with which to wash his disciples’ feet.

When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Lord and Teacher, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet .”

That is the mandatum , the command, and so it is that this day is also called Maundy Thursday.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Moving from John’s account to that of Matthew:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take eat, this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

The Lord’s Supper. The Holy Communion. The Eucharist. The Mass. And the Presence that is real.

      The Real Presence
      By Patrick Miller

       Present me with something real,
      and nothing short of breath,
      that inspiration might succeed,
      and spirit conquer death;
      something I might split in two
      while always keeping one,
      lying not beneath my touch,
      nor doing would be done.

Do this in remembrance of me. And so it has been done; week by week, day by day, century by century, until we eat and drink with him in the kingdom of his Father, and ours.

In the patristic era, this day began with the Reconciliation of the Penitents. For prodigal sons and daughters, it is a day for coming home. The Father is waiting.

Earlier in the day at Bethany he had sent the two favored disciples, Peter and John—the Petrine Church of governance, the Johanine Church of love—to prepare the paschal lamb, the room, and the table for the first Eucharist. Leaving Bethany, he said farewell to his mother, crossed Mount Olivet, and joined the apostles there.

The Mass vestments are white today. The Gloria in excelsis , suppressed during the long weeks of Lent, is sung once more. It is an anticipation of the triumph to come, but there is no rush to Easter. First the agony in the garden, the arrest, the scourging, the spittle, the mocking, the agony, the death. The Father had given all things into his hands, and he was given into the hands of his enemies. For a moment in time it was true to say, gazing at the pierced side of the derelict on the cross, that God is dead.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, we were there when we crucified our Lord.

But that is for tomorrow. At the conclusion of today’s Mass, the altar is stripped. The altar is Christ. Psalm 22: “They divide my garments among them and for my raiment they cast lots.”

The Blessed Sacrament is Christ. He is carried in procession to the place of repose. No Mass will be celebrated until he is raised from the dead. The lights are dimmed as the people, kneeling, sing:

       Down in adoration falling,
      Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
      Lo! oe’r ancient forms departing
      Newer rites of grace prevail;
      Faith for all defects supplying,
      Where the feeble senses fail.

       To the everlasting Father,
      And the Son Who reigns on high
      With the Spirit still proceeding
      Forth from each eternally,
      Be salvation, honor blessing,
      Might and endless majesty.

Then we leave, stepping out of the most real world into the world called real, resolved to remember what he said:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

In addition to which :

In the April issue of F IRST T HINGS , Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna responds to both critics and supporters of his critique of neo-Darwinism as a philosophy in his earlier essay, “The Designs of Science.” There is, for instance, this: “Darwinism provides no easy answers for theology, unless one incorporates evolutionary thinking into theology, using Darwinistic and heterodox ‘process theology’ to absolve God from the responsibilities of His all-encompassing providence . . . As with so many mysteries, orthodox Christianity must accept completely and unequivocally two truths—in this case, that God is all good and all powerful—and humbly shoulder the difficult burden of fitting those two truths together without diluting either of them.” Isn’t it time for you to become a subscriber to F IRST T HINGS ?

Avery Cardinal Dulles says of Catholic Matters :

"It would be difficult to find a guide so knowledgeable, so theologically astute, and so engaging as a writer. Father Neuhaus presents the ‘high adventure’ of a Catholic orthodoxy that stands firmly against the winds of adversity and confusion."

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