Originally posted 4/4/2012, but as with Holy Week's Missing Days, this has been a top search. Posting here for easier access!
During class last night, one of my students asked for a deeper explanation of why we use the term "Blood of the Lamb" when referring to the Eucharist.
Over the last few weeks, we've taken the story of Moses' Passover and applied it to the Passover / Last Supper of Christ. This is a very involved topic for adults let alone my sixth graders, but since they're a determined and bright bunch, I gave it a whirl.
I reminded them of the original Passover (that's still celebrated by Jews today). The Israelites had spent many years as slaves in Egypt, longing for God to rescue them from their suffering. God, in His Mercy, sent a final message to the Pharaoh in the form of the Angel of Death. In order to shelter His people from the Angel of Death, God commanded Moses to tell the Israelites to "take some of [the lamb's] blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb." (Exodus 12:7)
Moses had them use hyssop branches which they'd dip into the lamb blood and mark their doors. It looked something like this:
God promised the Israelites: "The blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you." (Exodus 12:13)
Thus, the blood of the lamb was a sign of God's Mercy towards the Israelites. Instead of striking out at them in judgement, God only struck out at the Egyptians who were not protected by this symbol of His Mercy.
Fast forward to the Last Supper, the feast of Passover in which the sacrificial lamb is offered up and its blood placed around the door frames of the Jews. Jesus not only fulfilled the request of God the Father by remembering the Passover through this act of sacrificing a lamb... Jesus established the "new and everlasting covenant" which was - for the very first time - all encompassing. No longer was this a mere covenant between God and the Israelites. This was a covenant between God and the whole of humanity, and Jesus offered HIMSELF as the Lamb.
When Jesus said "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt 26:28), He was accepting the role of the lamb. He, the Unblemished Innocent, was freely giving His Life so that those who partook of It would be cleansed of their sin, thus GAINING life. As such, His Blood - the seal of the New Covenant - became proof of God's Mercy.
God the Father's foreshadowing through Moses is completed through the Sacrifice of Christ at the Last Supper. Jesus truly shed His Blood in order to cover us, shielding us from the just punishments of God, just as the blood of the lamb over the doorposts shielded the Jews from the Angel of Death.
I then called to mind the words during the Mass, "Happy are those who are called to His Supper." We're specifically talking about the Eucharist... Christ's final, everlasting Passover meal in which He is the Paschal Lamb!
We are happy because we understand we accept Christ's Blood, fully present along with His Body, Soul and Divinity at Eucharist. We renew our covenant with God, re-pledging ourselves to follow His Will as He blesses us with the mark of Mercy - His Son. Our spiritual wounds healed, and our soul cleansed through His Presence, we are once more reunited to God through this most sacred, merciful mystery.
I sincerely hope they partake of the Eucharist with this in mind going forward!
Oh, and as an added bonus, the hyssop branches that were used by the Israelites during that first (and subsequent) Passovers were the same "reeds" used to offer Christ vinegar as He hung upon the Cross. God is certainly a stickler for the details. :)
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