Lenten Devotion: Maundy Thursday
Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
I Corinthians 11:28
First Corinthians 11:23-26 is the earliest written account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. In comparison with Mark and Matthew, Paul’s version, also reflected in Luke 22:14-20, contains the additions of the words “for you.” By emphasizing that Jesus’s body was given “for you” Paul reminds the Corinthians of Jesus’s self-giving act in which they participate by receiving the bread and the cup. The command to do this in memory of Jesus calls the Christians to offer a fitting memorial, including calling to mind Jesus’s self-offering (1 Cor. 11:26) and imitating him in this.
Paul warns the Corinthian Christians to treat the Lord’s Supper with reverence (1 Cor. 11:27), and to practice it in a spirit of self-examination (1 Cor. 11:28). However, this is not written with the thought of excluding ourselves from the table, but of preparing us to receive with the right heart. It is important to realize that Paul’s critique of the way the Corinthians celebrated the Eucharist is not about proper reverence toward the sacrament as such, but proper reverence toward all members who participate in it. The spirit of Matthews 5:24 applies here. Before taking the Lord’s Super, reflect on whether our brother or sister has something against us.
The meal is intended to mark the institution of a new covenant (1 Cor. 11:25), and the sharing of the bread and wine is to be done in a way that conveys unity, compassion and loving-kindness. Through the resurrection of Christ the power to live anew becomes reality for us. We move from one type of humanity to the other. At Eucharist, we open our souls to God and find life, thus making the Supper a spiritual means of grace.