Orthodox Easter is only a week after Western Easter this year, so today is Great and Holy Thursday for the Orthodox Church. First, a patristic-era image of the Last Supper, a sixth-century mosaic from the basilica of San Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna.
Next, a passage from Mar Jacob of Serugh, something not in Read the Fathers (from Roger Pearse), a few decades after the mosaic in the Near East:
The bread and wine our Lord made Body and Blood; which (thing) Melchizedek also thus depicted mystically. The high priest who was more excellent than Abraham sacrificed bread and wine to God, and nothing besides; and he taught the earth that the bread and wine is the Body and Blood which the Son of God gave to the world to be pardoned withal; and on the eve of the passion the Mystery shone forth from 16 our Saviour, who broke His Body and gave to His Apostles, as we have said.
Here let the soul of him who is to speak clothe itself in awe-; for save with awe the Son of God may not be spoken of. Let our mind glow with the fire of love that eats up stumblings and doubts, and then let it look upon the Son of God. With Faith, that leaps over pits and gulfs, our discourse shall run, and thus it shall not have fallen among the disputers.
His Body with His hands our Lord divided upon the table; and who is he that will dare to say now that it was not the Body? He said “This is My Body”; and who will not affirm it? For if he affirm it |286 not he is no disciple of the apostleship. The Apostles assented to Him; and while He was alive and reclining with them they ate Him; and dead whilst living they knew Him (to be), without doubting. If He were not dead, then His bread was not His Body; (p. 485) and if He were not alive He would not have broken His Body and given to His Apostles.
He brake the bread, and made it the Body, and gave to His Apostles; and the taste of the Body, wherein was life, was in their mouths. From when He took it and called it Body it was not bread 17, but 18 His Body, and it (or “Him”) they were eating whilst they marvelled. They eat His Body, and He is reclining with them at the table; and they drink His Blood, and they hear the voice of His teaching. They affirm that He is slain, whilst they look upon Him alive and speaking; and He is mingled with them whilst they eat Him, without doubt. And faith is bright and stands manfully, and doubts not either that He is alive or that He is slain. And He reclines slain at the table, and is not investigated; and they drink His Blood and affirm that it is Blood, while He is alive. And there are not there, neither pryers nor disputers, (p. 486) nor investigators, nor yet scribes of wise (opinions). They were not questioning, when there was place to ask: “Dost Thou indeed call it Body, Lord, when lo, it is bread? ” Faith stoops not to questionings: she knows to affirm; to investigate she has never learned. The Apostles were anxious to assent to the Son, not to investigate or question as daring (men).19 The bread that He brake and called His Body, Body they knew it (to be); and thus they thought, that yea, in truth His Blood was dropping 20 (there). Who would have been able to sacrifice the Son before His Sire, unless He had sacrificed Himself by His own hands before He suffered? He, our Lord, is the High Priest of the perfect Sacrifice; and therefore He sacrificed Himself before His Father. He is the Dead who when dead was alive, and was not investigated, Priest and Burnt Offering, whom to examine is too high for the disputers. He brake and divided His Body with His hands to His twelve, who, if they had not seen how He brake, would not have broken. He stood as Priest and performed the priest’s function upon Himself among His disciples, that He might depict a type to the priesthood for it to |287 imitate. He taught them how to break His holy Body and distribute it to the sons of the household of the faith, (p. 487) He made known to them how they should drink the cup of His Blood, and give the nations and worlds and regions to drink of it. With His Blood He sealed the new Covenant, which He made that it might be for remission of debts for ever. Simon He taught, and to John He gave an example, that as He did they should be doing when He was taken up.