‘It was not meant to hurt | It had been made for happy remembering | By people who were still too young | to have learned about memory’
….And how that explosion would hurt | is not just an idea of horror but a flash of fine sweat | over the skin-surface, a bracing of nerves | for something that has already happened.”
A Short Film, Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters)
He had talked so much about laying down his life. Despite the terrors of the pain to come, the fear which causes thick drops of sweat like blood to ground themselves among Gethsemane’s olive groves, the life laid down is his.
So in that upstairs room, when he gives his body in that bread, his blood in wine, this is what will happen hours from now, when a secret sign of a kiss will give him away, turn him to the splintered wood against his back, three hours’ worth of dying before he abandons himself to God in death.
He gives himself. His body, his blood. He is making memories when all they have is him.
His bruised and blood stained body, dropped from the cross, is placed in the arms of his mourning mother. They feel the pain tearing through her beating heart. The cost of love.
Despite his words and actions, they had not seen this coming. Too young, perhaps, to have learned about memory.
After days of dying to the world, blocked away in a bolted room, frozen by fear, they remember how they were given the sign, in bread and wine, that all this was to come. But still they cannot bring themselves to eat.
Days later, the darkness begins to disappear. Too much to take at first, they are uncomfortably full of fear. They are haunted by his presence, by the past.
His breath is like peace upon them.
He asks for something to eat.
He breaks the fast of fear, nurtures in them an appetite for believing again.
Soon after, they do as he has taught them. They begin to ‘Break Bread,’ an action filled with a vivid recollection of that late night supper. The mood, the dread, the danger, his death, his love.
But things are different now.
Every time they eat this bread and drink this cup they proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.
The memory, so vivid, lives on for generations to come, and we are awakened to a memory that we do not own.
This is not a reimagining, a pretending to be there, acting out the roles of history. Hindsight’s not the thing here.
The memory is ours in a new and vivid way each time we break the bread.
‘His passion is recalled, grace fills our heart, we receive a pledge of the glory to come.’
Now, as then, the Eucharist is a prophetic gesture, ‘a bracing of nerves for something that has already happened.’