Christianity is very simple. All it requires is a memory and a vision; and, if you can get them, some bread, and wine, and water. - Kenneth Leech
Simplicity is hardly my strong point - yet bread, wine, water, vision, and memory are the universal factors which have united the Christian Church since its earliest days. (I can develop an idea of the Church's going back to Adam... but let us save that for another day.) Looking back to a romantic, fictional 'golden age' is a favourite pastime in every era.
The Last Supper was not the Eucharist - there can be no anamnesis of what has not yet happened. :) But I provide this 'annual reflection,' which I reserve for Holy Week, right now because I'm weeping my way through the liturgy. Today at the Eucharist, for example, though I've heard the words literally thousands of times, I shed a tear when I heard "on the night he was betrayed..." (When I view the intellectually deficient film "King of Kings," I still cry when Lucius says to
Barabbas, "Go! Look upon him who is dying for you!") I wept through "All glory, laud, and honour" on Palm Sunday (not as much as I shall when we cry out "He is risen indeed" a few days hence). It thrills me thrill that those Hosannas to the
Son of David have echoed for 2,000 years. (I was a student for a century - original ideas are rare, and I think Einstein was the last to have one. :)
One wonders what the apostles were like. (I am also a peasant, yet the intellectual snob in me turns up her nose at the thought of their not being able to grasp the simplest parables and that most of them smelled of fish...) Luke's gospel shows how, to the end, the apostles were arguing over who would have the highest place in the kingdom. Ah, yes, arguments about authority...
Scriptural epics and "Lives of Christ", plus the 'see how these Christians love one another' myth (a situation neither Paul nor Clement found in Corinth), can lead us to picture twelve intense young men, in awe at the first sight of the ritual which would sustain the Church until the parousia. The Last Supper was a prototype of another sort. :) I am sure that at least one traditionalist was frowning that Jesus had changed the form for the Pesach meal with this "cup of my blood" business. Those who were simple or highly observant would question why the Passover was anticipated. (At least, they were spared the vegetarian's protests about the lamb, and no one offered the cup would have irately commented, "Wine is a drug!") Judas was on verge of betraying the Master. Matthew was sensitive about why Judas held the purse, considering his own experience as a tax collector. The disciples were conflicted about who would be the kingpins (I suppose when the Messiah toppled Roman rule.) "The Rock," who had learnt insufficient humility from attempting to
walk on water, was making bold promises he'd soon find were beyond him. (I've no doubt Peter made sure he was prominent during the "Hosanna" procession... why he hung out in the court of Caiaphas later on Thursday night still puzzles me... Perhaps it was poetic justice, since wonderfully fallible Peter of Rome would live to see what has endured - the sort of priests foreshadowed by Annas and Caiaphas also would exist till the parousia...) The lot of them would scatter in fear before the night was out.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Church.
Whenever I hear the words of consecration at the Eucharist, it moves me that the perpetual memorial has endured
for two millennia. For all the conflict, persecution, quarrels, heresy, whatever, which the early Church faced, that bread, wine, and water were the catholic element. Common worship kept the Church from crumbling when many a reform
movement of the time would die out quickly enough. Jerusalem would fall - the Word would spread to Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Gaul, etc.
All that was common, then or now, was worship - praise and thanksgiving - water, bread, and wine (and oil, and incense... forgive me, since I am so High Church) - the memory and vision, and the scriptures. Till the end, I'm sure that those of us who are avid believers will think that an ideal of unity and love will prevail. Yes, at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow... but not everyone will be happy and grateful at that gesture. :)
Lord, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise. All life, all holiness, comes from you, through your Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age, you gather a people to yourself,
so that from East to West a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name...
...out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life...