Jesus transforms “the cup of horror and desolation” into the cup of our salvation

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April 18/Holy Thursday

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I will lift up the cup of salvation, and will call on the name of the Lord. ~ Ps 116:13

On the eve of Christ’s painful, shameful death upon the cross, we are invited, paradoxically, to lift up the cup of salvation. Given the events that will unfold this night—the Last Supper with the disciples’ uncertainty swirling around the room, the protracted agony of Jesus in Gethsemane’s garden, his betrayal and all the chaos that ensued—the cup of bitterness or lament might be more appropriate.

Indeed, throughout much of the Hebrew Bible, the prophets and the psalms, salvation was the last thing that the image of the cup brought to mind. Instead, the cup was filled with the wrath of God and the piercing pain of divine judgement. Ezekiel speaks of “the cup of horror and desolation,” Isaiah makes similar allusions, and Jeremiah sums it up trenchantly: “For thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath.’” Indeed, for Jesus himself—a child of the Hebrew scriptures, let us remember—the cup was the cup of suffering. As he admonished a protesting Peter, “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” It is the miracle of the Resurrection that this very cup—the cup of submission, of suffering, of death itself—becomes the vessel not of our punishment or of God’s wrath, but of our salvation. The chalices from which we will take the precious blood of God tonight—simple or ornate—are the very cups that deliver us from our sin through the self-giving sacrifice of Christ on the cross that we celebrate in the Eucharist. How blessed we are to have cups that run over with the abundant love and abiding mercy of God.

O God the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, on this holy night, I give you thanks for the sacrifice that leads to my salvation.

For today’s readings, click here.

To hear the Taize chant “Eat This Bread, Drink This Cup,” click here.

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