The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Minute are the preparations for eating the lamb laid down in the Jewish writings. In preparing the lamb they were told not to break a bone, and the one who did so, would be punished with thirty-nine stripes. (Exod. xii. 46. Chron. xxv. 13.) This was to foretell the soldiers who came to remove the bodies; they broke the legs of the two thieves, but when they came to Jesus, seeing that he was already dead, they did not break his bones.
The Passover supper began after sundown, "between the two vespers." (Baracoth, 12. 2.) The chief Chazzan, from the Temple tower, blew three blasts on the great silver trumpet—the first telling of the coming kingdom of the Messiah, the next God's Providence ruling the world, and the last general Judgment. He sends forth the first when he sees the first star; and the people turn towards the city. He blows again when he sees the second star, and then all in the city go home. He sounds when he sees the third star and the Passover has begun.
In the Cenacle towards the east, facing the holy Temple, was a raised place called the Bema. It was over the tombs of the sleeping kings and it was the type of our sanctuary. The leader of each band always carried out the synagogue services before eating the supper. For aids he called seven men from the band to wait on him, and that, we suppose, gave rise to the seven ministers waiting on the bishop at Mass.
Writers say that the table at the Last Supper was laid in the form of a horse-shoe, so the waiters could come in-side the shoe and better attend the guests. Christ reclined at the toe, and six Apostles ranged themselves on each side of him. That gave rise to the custom in the early Church of saying Mass facing the people, to the twelve priests in the cathedral stalls, six on either side the bishop, and the arrangement of the clergy seats in our churches to-day.
It was night. Candles burned on the table, giving rise to the candles on our altars. The hanging lamp of olive oil, burning before the Aaron, " the chest," wherein reposed the sacred Five Books of Moses (the first five books of the Old Testament), was the origin of our sanctuary lamp, the lamps burning on the seven-branched candlestick, copied from the famous golden one in the Temple,—all these lighted up the chamber.
Along the sides of the table were thirteen divans or quasi couches, each having at the head, next the table, a cushion on which to lay the left elbow. Sometimes two or more could repose on a large couch. This was the way the Romans ate their feasts. Not till Charlemagne's time were stools used, which in the Middle Ages had backs fixed to them, becoming chairs. Spoons were used, for we have seen those excavated from Pompeii and other ruined cities. Meat was carved with a kind of lance. The table knife was introduced in the tenth century, and the fork later. While resting the left arm on the cushion, they took the eatables from the dishes with the right hand, and that is why they washed the hands so often during meals. The washing of the hands during this Last Supper gave rise to the washing of the hands before, during, and after Mass.
At the place of each Apostle was a Cos, or Gabia, "Chalice," which must be filled and drained four times. At the Lord's place was a magnificent chalice — the famous Gabia of his forefathers. A legend says it was first used by Noe in his sacrifice, when not knowing the effects of wine he lay naked in his tent, when he blessed the white race in their father Japheth, and cursed the sons of Canaan. Melchisedech, his son Sem, used that chalice when he offered bread and wine on this very spot. Adoi Zedk, his heir and successor, king of Jerusalem, sent tablets to the king of Egypt — records discovered in our day — telling of his predecessor, Melchisedech the "Just King," of Jerusalem. When the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, that chalice was lost. When Herod began the restoration of the great building it was found in the rubbish, and deposited in the Cenacle, and that is how it happened to be used that night by Christ. We cannot prove these statements. But Ven. Bede writes as follows: (Lib De Locis Sacris, Cap. 2.) " In the street leading from the Martyry to Golgotha was a shrine, which covered the Lord's chalice, and through the grating, they used to touch and kiss it. The chalice was of silver, and had two handles ; and in it was the sponge which was offered the Lord from which to drink." (See Baronius Ad An Christi Sec. 63.) The Martyry mentioned here was the building Constantine erected on the site of Pilate's palace, the ruined Antonia fortress, where the terrible fighting took place when Titus with his Romans captured the city. This chalice Christ used at the Last Supper gave rise to many romances under the name of the Holy Grail.
According to the Jewish rite, or Liturgy, composed by Moses, (The Passover Service) at the Master's place at the table was a silver plate holding the three unleavened cakes, covered with a napkin, telling that the Mass was hidden in the Hebrew service. It seems that this is the reason the chalice and paten are covered, and why the purificator lies on the paten. Two flagons, one of water, the other of wine, were on the table. Was this the origin of the cruets of water and wine ? The water was used not only to mix with the wine, but also to wash the hands. Is this why the priest washes his hands with water from the cruet before, and twice during, Mass ?
Other dishes held lettuce, wild endive, nettles, urtica, bitter coriander, wild lettuce, lactuca agrestica, a horse radish, which might be fresh, boiled, or cooked any way, but must riot be pickled with vinegar, bitter herbs, pease, little fishes, hard-boiled eggs, flesh-meat, mustard, and vinegar mixed with salt. Vases with flowers decorated he table, the origin of the same decorations on our altars.
The first night of the Passover all these things with the roasted lamb and the unleavened bread were used. The other nights of the Passover, lasting for a week, till the twenty-first day of the moon, they did not eat a lamb, but the other things described. This was the reason they said they could not eat the Passover if they became defiled in Pilate's palace. Writers not understanding that the feast lasted for a week, seem to get mixed up regarding the Passover, thinking it lasted only one day. The Greeks and Orientals fall into this error and use fermented bread at Mass.
These things the writer saw on the table in an upper chamber on Sion near the Cenacle, Holy Saturday of 1908, when he was present at the Passover celebrated by thirteen Jews, all carried out according to the ancient rite coming down from Moses. All was typical of the time when the Messiah would come and redeem Israel. Let us see these prophetic figures hidden in the Passover Service. (It is called the Sedar Service in the Jewish Liturgy of the Feast.)
The fish represented the Leviathan given in Job, (Job xl., xli.) whose skin disease and patience foretold the Saviour's scourging and patience. This marine animal, the whale, to the Hebrew figured Egypt, Israel's ancient enemy, to the Christian he was the demon, mankind's foe conquered, not by Job, but by Christ in his death. The eggs to the Jew were the devils flying in the air like birds to ruin men. The flesh meat recalled the Behemoth, the elephant of Babylonia, whose king destroyed the city, and carried away the Hebrews into captivity.
But carrying the symbol still farther, they saw in it the enemy of mankind, the demon who had conquered man when Adam fell. The bitter herbs recalled the bitter slavery their fathers suffered in Egypt. The vinegar was the wine of gladness turned sour by sufferings. The Chagigah, a hash made of apples, almonds, herbs, etc., beaten into a salad, reminded them of the mortar without straw, their fathers made in Egypt. The candles were the light of the Torah, " the Law," of Moses enlightening their minds, and of the Messiah, who was to come and establish his glorious kingdom over all the earth. The nuts were for the children lest they might sleep, for no one ever lay down in Jerusalem the night of the Passover, for the first passover, when their fathers fled from Egypt no one slept on the journey, nor on that night when Christ was arrested.
We cannot find when first these things were used. From remotest Hebrew history they come down. Jewish writers claim Moses established the Passover Service. In ternal evidence hint that a few minor additions were made about the time of Christ. The skinned, roasted lamb, resting on his cross, and the bread and wine come down from the patriarchs, shadowing forth the crucifixion and the Mass.
The Passover began with the synagogue prayers said at the steps of the Bema, as the Mass begins at the foot of the altar. There they said the Sh'ma, and then went up in the sanctuary and kissed the Aaron, the chest, where rested the Torah, "the Law," as the celebrant goes up and kisses the altar. They came down and sat at the table as the bishop sits on his throne after beginning the service. Then for the first time that day they broke their fast, eating the Passover supper.
When they began this part of the Last Supper John reclined at Christ's right, Peter at his left. When the Passover Service opened, before the recitation of the Seder, a contention rose regarding who would be first. Christ had called seven of them to assist him in the service, Peter as his assistant, James and his brother John and other Apostles, as seven priests assist the bishop. Judas thought he was slighted ; he crowded into Peter's place, and that caused a commotion. Peter went to the other side of John where he remained to the end. Thus it was easy for Peter to whisper to John, for the latter to roll over, lay his head on the Master's breast, and ask who it was who would betray him.
The custom was for all who celebrated the Passover to bathe the whole body as a type of the innocence required for Communion. They had left their sandals at the door, walking over the stone floors soiled their feet, and the greatest honor in Oriental countries was to wash the feet of the guest. To give them an example Christ rose and washed their feet, and that settled the disputes.
At the Passover, each holds the Liturgy in his bands and follows the master of the house, who reads the sacred words of Moses. This gave rise to the custom, ever since followed, of the clergy holding the Liturgy of the Mass when being ordained. Reclining again, the Lord spoke these words:
" You call me Master, and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, being Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you so you do also. Amen, amen, I say to you: The servant is not greater than his lord, neither is an apostle greater than he that sent him. If you know these things you shall be blessed if you do them. I speak not of you all, I know whom I have chosen, but that the Scripture may be fulfilled : * He that eateth bread with me shall lift up his heel against me.' At present I tell you before it come to pass, that when it shall come to pass, you may believe that I am the Messiah." ( John xiii. 13-18.)
Three times during the Passover, he foretold that Judas would betray him. Ancient writers say he then ordained them with the imposition of hands, as the Rabbis were accustomed to ordain their followers. He showed them the way to consecrate the holy oils, and this is the reason that ever since the oils are hallowed on Holy Thursday, every year in all the Rites. They were now priests, when he consecrated the bread and wine they took part with him in this first Mass, as the priest at his ordination does with the bishop.
All reclined on divans, even women assisting with their families and so recalling the rest of their fathers after the delivery from Egyptian slavery, and the rest of the soul after being redeemed by Christ. The ceremony of the Passover takes up nearly three hours. We will not now go into details. Four cups of wine each one must drink, every cup must be mixed with water from the flagon on the table, hands must be washed many times, every act done with a prayer, all filled with mystic meaning of the crucifixion and the Mass.
Soon after the Passover begins, Christ as the Master takes the middle cake, breaks it in two unequal halves, lays one half on a little plate at his right hand on the table, covers it with a napkin as we cover the paten at Mass. The other half he puts on another plate, hands it to the youngest, to John beside him, puts over his shoulders the prayer-shawl, ends hanging down in front. John covers the plate with the bread with the right end of the prayer shawl as the subdeacon does at a high Mass, and John holds it thus covered till towards the end.
A careful examination of the Oriental Rites and the Passover shows that the Latin Mass, composed by St. Peter at Rome, follows the Last Supper more closely than the other Liturgies. But we will leave the details of the Lord's Last Supper when he changed the Passover into the Mass to another work.
This bread, called the Aphicomen, "the Heavenly Bread," is thus covered till towards the end of the feast, for the Mass was hidden in the Passover service from the time that Melchizedek offered bread and wine on that very spot, and in the Liturgy since Moses' day, to foretell Christ and the Mass. The last thing the master of the family did at the feast in all the houses of Israel was to uncover that bread, break off a piece, take it himself and hand a piece of it to everyone at the table. Then he gave each one his own chalice to drink from. When it came to that part, the Lord filled his chalice with wine. It was the fourth cup, and then he said:
"And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day, when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father." (Matt xxvi. 29.)
It was the law that every one at the table must drink not less than four cups of wine, and what did this mean ? He consecrated that cup or chalice. It was no more the "fruit of the vine," but his own blood, and he was calling their attention to this.
He first consecrated the bread, the Aphicomen, gave it to them in Communion, saying "This is my Body." Then he takes the fourth chalice of wine, consecrates that and gives it to each one saying, " This is the Chalice of my Blood, of the New and Eternal Testament, the Mystery of Faith, which for you, and for many will be shed for the forgiveness of sins."
He changed nothing in the Passover Service. He followed out the whole ceremony with all its rites loaded with types and prophecies of himself. When he consecrated the bread and wine all were fulfilled, he changed it into the Mass. Thus all these ceremonies of the Temple, all the prophecies of holy men of Israel, ended with him. But future ages were to know him, and he ordained an other ceremonial, the Eucharistic Sacrifice which is to go on forever, and tell all generations how he came and died for man.
He preached at the end of the Passover these words of burning love, of sublime principles, in St. John Gospel. Then with his little band of Jews, about the midnight hour, he passes down the eastern slope of Sion, passes out what is now called the Dung Gate, to Gethsemane, and enters into the awful sorrows of his Passion, which we will describe in the following chapters.