Thy Will be Done...
"Of that night is recalled the Last Supper, at which Christ is believed to have given to His brethren the lamb and the unleavened bread, according to laws given to the ancient fathers.
After the typical lamb, and when the meal was finished, we profess that our Lord's body, with His own hands, was given to his disciples, in such manner that the whole (body) was given to all, and the whole to each.
He gave to the weak the food of His body; and He gave to the sad the cup of His blood, saying: Receive ye the cup which I give to you, drink ye all of it.
Thus he instituted the sacrifice, the administration of which He willed should be entrusted to priests alone, whom it thus behooves to receive and give to others."
Thus, on this night, the Lord institutes that wonderful sacrament in which "Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is renewed and a pledge of future glory", the glory of salvation, is in these Sacred Three Days, won for us. On this night too, the Lord gives the sacred priesthood to the world to continue His example of Eucharistic self-giving and servant-leadership and by the washing of feet, has given all Christians an example of service and love to follow.
And "when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives" and "then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane" where he told his disciples to watch and pray (cf Mt 26:30ff). Fr Gerald Vann OP reminds us that that command is given us by the Lord, to watch and pray; and not just on this night - as many of us will before altars of repose - but to always watch and pray. As St Peter says: "Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary the devil prowls round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand up to him, strong in faith" (1 Pet 5:8-9a). And how should we pray? How can we be vigilant and defeat the devil? How do we stay awake and alert?
Fr Gerald Vann suggests that we can take our inspiration for Christ's example and prayer in Gethsemane and place our will in God's. Indeed, the Desert Fathers often teach that only humility can defeat the snares of the devil. And the fruit of such humility is obedience to the Father's will. And so, Gerald Vann OP writes:
"'Father, if this cup may not pass from me, but I must drink it, thy will be done.' Obedience to God's will is the keynote of the whole Gospel story. We find it at the beginning when Mary is told of her destiny: 'Be it done to me according to thy word' (Lk 1:38). We find it constantly on the lips of Christ: 'My meat is to do the will of him that sent me' (Jn 4:34). Here in the garden the struggle within him is caused by the shrinking of his nature from what that will was to mean to him; and as here he prays, 'Thy will be done', so in the final cry on the cross, Consummatum est, 'the work is completed', he is declaring the fact that the will has been done. Obedience is the keynote of the story because it is the essential fact in the story. Sin means the rejection, by human pride and egoism of God's authority; and it is from our egoism that all our troubles spring. Christ saves us from our troubles by reversing the process; annihilating egoism - and asserting true self-hood - by a total acceptance of God's will. But his obedience can be of value to us only in so far as we share in it. For us too God's will has to become the essential fact, and 'Thy will be done' the essential prayer."
Perhaps as we contemplate our Lord's Passion and His agony in the garden tonight, we can unite our willful selves more closely to His selflessness and pray that God's mysterious will is done in all things. That is how we are to watch and pray so that, beginning with this night, tonight paradoxically becomes just like any other night, because the prayer 'Thy will be done' ought to be our perennial and daily prayer.
This happens as we partake of the "sacred solemnity" of the holy Eucharist - as St Thomas Aquinas puts it in the hymn referred to above - whose supernatural graces will cause "all things [to] be new: hearts, words, and works". This wonderful work of the redemption and renewal of all creation, begins tonight as we enter the Sacred Triduum and the Lord declares: "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev 21:5).