The Bitter Cup

“You make the grass grow for the cattle and plants to serve man’s need, that he may bring forth bread from the earth and wine to cheer the heart” (Ps. 104:14-15). And again: “Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matt. 26:27).

A glass of fine wine is bitter in taste and yet joyful to drink. It was fitting, then, that Christ should choose wine as the sacramental matter that would become his blood. For in the Eucharist we partake of his passion, death and resurrection. In the death of Jesus we find the most profound grief and, at the same instant, the highest joy.

Here is our God, crucified. Here is our God, redeeming us. This is the cup which was prepared for him, which he accepted saying, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Matt. 26:42). This is the cup he offers to us at the Last Supper. We “look upon him whom they,” that is, we, “have pierced” (Jn. 19:37). We look upon Love made man as he loves us to the bruised and bloody end (Jn. 13:1).

Through it all, the voice of Jesus echoes: “This is my blood, shed for many, shed for you.”

When we enter the Mass, we obey the divine command to “do this, in memory of me” (Lk. 22:19). Again and again we approach the one sacrifice of Christ, taste the sweet bitterness of wine that isn’t wine, and consume the power of a “love [that] is strong as death, jealousy as hard as hell, the lamps thereof are fire and flames” (Cant. 8:6).  By this blood, men are redeemed. In a miracle greater than the resurrection of the dead to physical life, Christ’s blood restores the soul dead in mortal sin to life in grace. After all, Christ only said a word to raise Lazarus, but he purchased the sinner’s redemption “not by any diminishable sum of silver or gold, but by [his] blood beyond all price” (1 Pet. 18-19).

Marvel at the divine wisdom, then, which gives to you such a gift of blood poured out through a chalice of what was wine. Be spiritually gladdened and even inebriated, as it were, by the divine goodness in which you partake. As the Bridegroom himself spoke at the Last Supper and speaks at every Mass: “Eat, O friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved” (Cant. 5:1).

Image: Isaack Luttichuys, Still Life with Bread and Wine

From Dominicana Journal