He loved us to the uttermost

Comunione degli apostoli, cella 35
Last Supper. Fra Angelico (Wikimedia)

St John says of the Logos,
“All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (Jn 1:3-5)
and he makes it clear that this Logos is the historic Jesus Christ by saying that the Logos was made flesh, and then going on to describe His life, death and resurrection.

St Paul also speaks of this Logos who was in the beginning:
“For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist.” (Col 1:16-17)
Jesus Christ Himself said to the apostles,
“I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)
The life that Our Lord came to bring us is communicated to us in the Holy Eucharist, our Holy Communion with Him, and therefore with the Godhead. This sacrament is the means by which we are fully “co-sharers in the divine nature” as St Peter said. (2 Pet 1:4)

It is legitimate to argue, with the Franciscan tradition, that the Word would have become incarnate even without sin, in order to be that life which is the light of men, in order to be the one in whom all things consist, and in order to bring us life and life more abundant so that we should be co-sharers in the divine nature. The angels commune directly with God as pure spirits; the animals, plants and the rest of creation are not made “to the image and likeness of God” and are therefore limited to that praise and thanksgiving which they give to Him by their very existence as part of the cosmos which He created. The human person uniquely needs to be in communion with God spiritually but for this communion to be mediated in the created world.

This is achieved by God through the incarnation of His Son. That Christ is one divine person with a human nature and a divine nature makes it possible for us to be united to the Godhead. This is precisely what we are reminded of at the offertory: we are made co-sharers in the divine nature of Him who deigned to become a partaker in our humanity, namely Jesus Christ (who, being the Logos made flesh, lives and reigns etc.)

Disastrously, the life that Jesus Christ came to bring us has to be given against the backdrop of opposition and hatred, leading to His torture and death. The ultimate sacrifice of praise must now also be an immolation in which the perfect offering of propitiation is made. The Holy Eucharist must forever be both sacrament and sacrifice.

From all this, we can savour the reportage of St John at the beginning of chapter 13 of his gospel when he says: “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” The Greek expression is eis telos – which can certainly mean “to the end”, but also “to the uttermost.” This verse marks the beginning of St John’s presentation of the Last Supper, the betrayal, the trial, the mockery, the torture and the crucifixion, to be followed by his two beautiful chapters detailing the appearances of Our Lord after His resurrection.

Our Lord loved us to the uttermost, to the greatest extent that even God could love us, by giving Himself to us. He gave Himself to us as the food for our souls which is the giving of life in a way that no purely human religion could ever dare to invent. He gave Himself for us by suffering torture and death as a perfect offering to take away our sins and win us heaven.

Friends, let us celebrate these great mysteries with awe, with terror, and with thanksgiving.

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