Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Now, my tongue, the mystery telling

It began this past Sunday, with palm-branches and "Hosanna!" We remembered with joy the welcome Jesus received as fulfilled prophecy and entered Jerusalem. And then we braced ourselves for this Week of Weeks with a meditation on Jesus' teaching, betrayal, suffering, and death.

And we wait.

We wait for the culmination of our hope as Christians. The yearning for the completion and fulfillment that we sense is just over the horizon.

But for now, the glorious rays of Light, the peals of "Hallelujah!", and the glad proclamation of victory are yet unfulfilled.

We must wait.

And as we wait, we remember. The twentieth day of March is Maundy Thursday this year: the night that we remember Jesus' teaching of the New Commandment (mandatum novum) that we "love one another." The night we remember the example that he gave for us, as he washed his disciples' feet. And the night that we joyfully recall that sacred meal that he taught us to commemorate, to proclaim his death until he returns.

I hope you will take a moment and think about that Thursday night: the night that Jesus was betrayed and handed over to sinners. To help you as you turn to God in prayer, consider the following poem, attributed to Thomas Aquinas (a Christian from the thirteenth century), and use it to guide your prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, and remembrance.

And then wait. Sunday is coming.

Now, my tongue, the mystery telling
of the glorious Body sing,
and the Blood all price excelling,
which the Gentiles Lord and King:
once on Earth among us dwelling,
shed for this world's ransoming.

Giv'n for us and condescending
to be born for us below,
he with us in converse blending
dwelt, the seed of truth to sow,
'til he closed with wondrous ending
his most patient life of woe.

That last night at supper lying
'mid the Twelve, his chosen band,
Jesus, with the Law complying,
keeps the feast its rites' demand;
then, more precious food supplying,
gives himself with his own hand.

Word made flesh, the bread he taketh,
by his word his flesh to be;
wine his sacred blood he maketh,
though the senses fail to see;
faith alone the true heart waketh
to behold the mystery.

Therefore we, before him bending,
this great Sacrament revere;
types and shadows have their ending,
for the newer rite is here;
faith, our outward sense befriending,
makes our inward vision clear.

Glory let us give, and blessing,
to the Father and the Son,
honor, thanks, and praise addressing,
while eternal ages run;
ever, too, His love confessing
Who* from both, with both, is One.


--Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-1274); ver. Hymnal 1940


* Reference to the Holy Spirit

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