Recently we celebrated Easter. People of the Jewish faith celebrated Passover. The Passover meal was divided into four parts:
First was the preliminary course. This consisted of the blessing of the festival (kiddush) spoken over the first cup of wine (Cup of Sanctification). This was followed by the serving of a dish of bitter herbs. The herbs represented the bitter place the Hebrews found themselves in Egypt.
The second course included a recital of the Passover Narrative and the “Little Hallel” (Psalm 113). This was followed by the drinking of the second cup of wine (Cup of Judgement/Deliverance). This represented the judgement of God over the oppressors of His people and His deliverance of His people from their oppression.
The third course was the main meal. This consisted of lamb and unleavened bread. This involved the lamb which was sacrificed “in place of” (redeemed”) the firstborn of the Hebrews. After this, was was drunk the third cup of wine, known as the “cup of blessing” (Cup of Redemption).
The Passover climaxed with the singing of the “Great Hallel” (The “Great Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving.” Psalms 114-118) and the drinking of the fourth cup of wine (Cup of the Kingdom).
These four parts represented the four themes of Passover. They are recalled in Exodus 6:6-7,
“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God…”
- The first cup is the Cup of Sanctification – “I will bring you out of Egypt.”
- The second cup is the Cup of Deliverance – “I will deliver you from Egyptian bondage.”
- The third cup is the Cup of Redemption – “I will redeem you with My power.”
- The fourth cup is the Cup of the Restoration – “I will take you as My people.”
When we look at the 26th Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is celebrating this Passover with his disciples. We read that,
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup (The 3rd Cup of Blessing) 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. I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”
Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The last sentence is key. Jesus and the disciples drink from the third “cup of blessing.” Then they immediately leave, singing the “Great Hallel” (The “Great Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving”) without drinking from the fourth cup! The disciples would have found this more than curious. Jesus skipping the fourth cup could be compared to a priest omitting the words of consecration at Mass. The fundamental purpose or goal of the liturgy would be totally missed. In the case of the Jesus, his disciples and their celebration of Passover, the purpose of their celebration was incomplete.
The fourth cup was consumed by Jesus on the Cross. We read this in John 19:30, “When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit”.
This is the Cup of the Kingdom. It is the cup of restoration. Guess who are those who are called – and sent – to do the restoration of the world? We are. We heard this during the Solemnity of the Ascension on Thursday. Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Jesus does not ask that we retreat from the world. Far from it. He sends us right into the midst of a world that needs us to bring His touch, His healing, His hopeful message. We see this at the end of today’s Gospel,
They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.
Still, Jesus does not send us out alone, unprotected and unequipped. As we also heard on Ascension Thursday, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem.”
Audio version of the homily is here: