Agape, the supernatural love of God uniting believers in Christ, becomes visible to our mortal eyes. The ministers then return to the holy place and continue the liturgy.
The Mass climaxes with the Eucharistic Prayer. We watch as the Lord Jesus, having observed all the requirements of the Passover, does something altogether new. Taking the bread, he blesses and breaks it, and gives it to His disciples, saying: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” In like manner, He takes the cup of wine, blesses it, and gives it to His disciples – and to us – saying, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.” At this moment, we experience the mystery as if we too were there in the upper room. The Messiah has fulfilled the Passover Seder and has shown forth its true meaning. Christ is the Lamb of God who must be sacrificed and eaten for the forgiveness of sins; He has changed bread into His Body and wine into His Blood, offering it to us as true food and true drink (Jn. 6:55; cf. Jn. 6). In the priest at the altar, we see that by commanding His disciples to do this in memory of Him, the Messiah has created the apostolic priesthood. Sharing in His own High Priesthood, the Lord has given to bishops and priests the power to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross until He comes again.
At this point, Christ has entered physically into our midst, and so we worship Him. This adoration constitutes the conclusion of tonight’s Mass. After Holy Communion, the remnants of the Lamb of God are taken in solemn procession to another church or chapel. Incense and candles pave a path as the priest, followed by the people, reverently carries the Body and Blood of Christ. When the procession ends, the people and ministers kneel before the Lord. We are now in the Garden of Gethsemane with our Savior in His agony. He beckons us from the Tabernacle, “Could you not watch one hour with me…?” (Mk. 14:37). Can we? Are we able to stay with Him now when He wants our company most? How about during the week in our daily lives? Tonight we wait with Him until adoration ends. Afterwards, the altar and the temple are stripped of all linens and furnishings. No candles, no images, no cloths – nothing remains. If the statues and other icons have not already been covered at Passiontide, they will be veiled tonight. The bleakest portion of the night is now upon us. The priest does not bless or dismiss us from Mass as we have entered into a single liturgy lasting until the Paschal Vigil.
Make no mistake: in the Holy Eucharist, established for us this night two thousand years ago, we can intimately commune with the Lord Jesus Christ. His promise to be with us always (Mt. 28:20) is fulfilled by His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity being truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. The apostolic ministry established by Christ that night also continues through the apostolic succession of the bishops, so that we might never suffer from lack of nourishment. Christ has furnished everything for our good at His altar. With this privilege, however, comes a duty, for we are solemnly charged by Christ to abide by His New Commandment to love one another as He has loved us. Ultimately, that is what the Day of the Lord’s Supper is all about: love. An imperishable, self-giving love for which we were made and for which we long. So let us say today, together with St. Ignatius of Antioch: “I have no taste for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink, I desire His Blood, which is love incorruptible” (Letter to the Romans, 7:3).