On the Great and Holy Thursday we commemorate two events united by the common theme of love. One is the Last Supper of Christ, and the other is the betrayal of Christ by Judas. At the Last Supper, God projects His ultimate love of Man, by which He leads humanity to salvation. Judas becomes the epitome of corrupted love that turns into a deadly passion. On this day and in its liturgy, we observe a paradoxical unity of opposites - life and death, light and darkness, as we contemplate the stark life choices before us.
God brought forth the earth, the universe and man, the crown of His creation. He created them out of love. Life was the first gift of His Love to man. From the surrounding world, man got the food and drink he needed for life, and communion with God gave man's life meaning and substance. Man’s love of God affirmed the sanctity of all life and made the world a paradise.
But at some stage, man chose to put an end to this communion. He turned his love away from God to love himself and the world. He looked to the world, not God, as his source of sustenance. Yet God never withdrew His love. God became flesh, so man could ascend to sanctity. He showed with His example what it meant not to live by bread alone. Voluntarily, he accepted death on the Cross in the redemption of our sins. And at the last supper, Christ gave His Body and Blood as food for man, making us partakers of His divinity and restoring us to true life. “Take, eat, this is My Body,” He said.
God is Love (1 John 4:8), and Judas’s betrayal of Christ appears to be its exact opposite. Judas leaves the Last Supper with Christ into the darkness of the night (John 13:30). But in the hymns of this day, we hear that the motive of his betrayal was also love. He loved “silver”, but what turned his love into a deadly passion was his conscious choice to love an object of the world, and turn his love away from God.
Thousands of years after Judas’ betrayal, we are still confronted by the same choice: are we going to direct our love to God, and restore our community with Him, or betray him, to live for the world and ourselves?
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