Mass of the Lord’s Supper reminds us that the Lord is “our utterly faithful companion,” says Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper reminds us that – whatever happens in life – the Lord is “our utterly faithful companion, our constant consolation,: the Archbishop of Westminster has said.

Delivering his Homily on Maundy Thursday evening, HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols described this  “most sacred supper” as a “gift, entrusted by Christ to the Church when ‘about to hand himself over to death’.

“We know that the Lord never abandons us. It is so much more than the pillars of cloud and fire. In the Mass we are to find ‘the fullness of charity and life’ so that we, in our turn, may never leave others abandoned or alone,” said the Cardinal.

“May this evening’s celebration of this Mass of the Lord’s Supper draw us more closely into the embrace of the Church. May it also turn our hearts and eyes to those who see themselves to be beyond that embrace today, for whatever reason.

“As we draw from this celebration ‘the fullness of charity and life’ may we make it a priority to go in search of those who are outside, in order to walk alongside them, being for them a point of patient acceptance, leaving to the Lord to task of bringing them home again.”

Referring to ritual of the Washing of the Feet, His Eminence said that: “We see again how much he guards, protects, nurtures, accompanies every person, even to the price of his body and blood, no matter the dirt encrusted in their hearts and souls.

“His outpouring of love is so much more abundant that the water of this simple washing. He is our utterly faithful companion, our constant consolation, coming into our lives through the sacraments given to the Church and there within our reach.

The Cardinal also made reference to offering witness those currently outside the embrace of the Church, that our example might encourage them to return.

“May this evening’s celebration of this Mass of the Lord’s Supper draw us more closely into the embrace of the Church. May it also turn our hearts and eyes to those who see themselves to be beyond that embrace today, for whatever reason,” he said.

“As we draw from this celebration ‘the fullness of charity and life’ may we make it a priority to go in search of those who are outside, in order to walk alongside them, being for them a point of patient acceptance, leaving to the Lord to task of bringing them home again.

_____________________

Full text of the Cardinal’s homily

Given at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Maundy Thursday, 14th April 2022

Today marks the end of Lent. Its forty days are done, days we have tried, though probably failed, to mark with penance, prayer and extra charity.  Now a new moment opens up.

To understand this moment well, we need to look back.

In the Reading from the Book of Exodus, we hear about the first Passover meal, that moment of miraculous change from slavery into freedom. It is a Passover meal that Jesus celebrates and that gives depth and shape to our Mass.

But we need to remember that this gift of freedom went wrong and the journey to the promised land went on for forty years. For those long years the people lived through a time of testing and purification, their preparation before coming into the land in which milk and honey flowed. Jesus himself embraced the same journey, forty days in the desert, confronting the power of evil that lurks in the hidden places of our hearts and minds.

Throughout that journey of forty years, God never left the side of his people. By day, a pillar of cloud; by night, a pillar of fire. God gave them nourishment: manna and quails. God faithfully accompanied them. Yet still their hearts were not ready. They complained about the food and drink he gave; they muttered that their wanderings were pointless. They rebelled, even as they observed their annual Passover.

Eventually, their vanguard entered the land on the far side of the Jordan and, after forty days, returned bearing the fruits of the land: grapes, pomegranates, figs. They had glimpsed the kingdom they were to enter and receive.

We are immersed in this drama this evening.

Our time of wandering is over. We stand at the threshold of the Kingdom we are to enter and receive. Yet our purification is far from complete. We are not ‘clean all over’; we need to be cleansed by the loving mercy of God made visible in Christ Jesus who bends low to wash our feet. He cleanses them of the dust of every compromise and every sin that we, too, amass on our wanderings.

And St Paul, in reminding us of the great gift of the Mass, echoes the ancient warning. We must not trivialise the sacred. As we gather about the altar we are to keep our wits about us and retain that profound sense of awe and wonder. At this altar, we receive the first fruits of the promised Kingdom, not grapes or pomegranates, but the Precious Body and Blood of our Saviour. Here we glimpse the banquet of heaven that is to come, even as we share in its reality in sacrament and sign.

The prayer of our Mass this evening describes this reality most clearly. This is a ‘most sacred supper’, surpassing every Passover meal; this is ‘a sacrifice new for all eternity’, replacing or completing every other sacrifice we could ever make; this is a ‘banquet of his love’, prepared for by Jesus himself washing our feet.

In this gift, entrusted by Christ to the Church when ‘about to hand himself over to death’, we know that the Lord never abandons us. It is so much more than the pillars of cloud and fire. In the Mass we are to find ‘the fullness of charity and life’ so that we, in our turn, may never leave others abandoned or alone. The accompaniment we receive we are also to give.

This evening we renew in ourselves this pathway of salvation. We know again that the journey through life, on which each of us is engaged, is under the loving protection of our merciful God. We see again how much he guards, protects, nurtures, accompanies every person, even to the price of his body and blood, no matter the dirt encrusted in their hearts and souls. His outpouring of love is so much more abundant that the water of this simple washing. He is our utterly faithful companion, our constant consolation, coming into our lives through the sacraments given to the Church and there within our reach.

May this evening’s celebration of this Mass of the Lord’s Supper draw us more closely into the embrace of the Church. May it also turn our hearts and eyes to those who see themselves to be beyond that embrace today, for whatever reason. As we draw from this celebration ‘the fullness of charity and life’ may we make it a priority to go in search of those who are outside, in order to walk alongside them, being for them a point of patient acceptance, leaving to the Lord to task of bringing them home again.

The forty days of Lent, like the years of our lives, pass quickly. This evening we rejoice in the grace of seeing that span of time as but a preparation for the great promise that lies ahead: that, washed clean in the blood of our Saviour, we shall inherit the Kingdom of heaven. And, in this meantime we serve one another, following the example he has given, doing for each other what he has done for us, even as he has taught us.

✠ Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster

https://rcdow.org.uk

Photo: Marcin Mazur/CBCEW.org.uk

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