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Holy Saturday (2022) 2

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The Paschal Trilogy – Part II/III – Holy Saturday

Matthew 26:20, ‘When it was evening, He reclined at table…’

Considering Jesus’ final meal with His disciples, Irenaeus of Lyons makes the beautiful observation that ‘[Jesus] administered food to [His disciples] in a recumbent posture, indicating that those who were lying in the earth were they to whom He came to impart life’ (Against Heresies 4.22.1). In other words, for Irenaeus, the posture of the Lord and His disciples lying down around the table was a picture of Jesus’s life-giving entrance into the death of His people. Christ giving His disciples bread and wine as they recline at table becomes an image of the way He gives Himself as vivifying food and drink when He ‘reclines’ with them in the grave.

On Holy Saturday, the same body that reclined at table in the upper room reclines in death beneath the earth. Truly, this is ‘Immanuel’—God with us—even in the darkness of our cursed death. And yet, it is precisely in the ‘recumbent posture’ of mortal death, that the God of life gives Himself as living bread to His people (John 6:51), turning the stone slab of the tomb into a table of feasting from which the True Food and True Drink of eternal life may be received by all those who—through Adam’s sin—recline in their graves around this same table.

As Irenaeus continues, ‘The holy Lord remembered His dead Israel, who slept in the land of sepulture; and He descended to them to make know to them His salvation, that they might be saved.’ There is no God like YHWH, as He is known in the Beloved Son, who loves His people to the uttermost, reclining with them in the darkness of their death, preparing a table for them in the presence of the Last Enemy, giving Himself in the grave as the food and drink of resurrection life.

And to receive this feast—offered to all the cosmos on Sunday morning—is to know our God, and so live in truth. May all who read these words taste and see that the Lord is Good.