Maundy Thursday 2016

The Betrayal of Christ


















Tonight we begin the sacred Triduum with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and afterwards will watch until midnight as Jesus is betrayed into the hands of his enemies. But this morning a single thought keeps nudging me: it is the blood spread on the lintels of the houses of the Israelites, that the Angel of Death might pass over them (cf Exodus 12). In the last few weeks much blood has been shed in Turkey, Yemen and now Belgium. The Angel of Death has not passed over. God’s children — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, agnostic — have not been spared. Yet we continue to affirm that God’s promise holds. How can that be?

I think the only answer we can give is the one that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews gives: Christ suffered on behalf of all of us and by so doing showed that sin, betrayal, even death itself, no longer have ultimate power over us. Our own sufferings are taken up into those of Christ and we know that he will triumph. There will be no dismissal at the end of Mass tonight because the three great celebrations of the Triduum, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, are one great liturgical act. We cannot separate death from resurrection. The blood on the doorposts and the Blood of Christ given to us in the Eucharist are a pledge of God’s unfailing love for his people. We go into the darkness of the night sure of the dawn to come.

Note on the illustration: The Betrayal of Christ; Masters of Dirc van Delf (Dutch, active about 1400 – about 1410); Utrecht (probably), Netherlands; about 1405 – 1410; Tempera colours, gold leaf, and ink on parchment; Leaf: 16.5 x 11.7 cm (6 1/2 x 4 5/8 in.); Ms. 40, fol. 13v