To-day, Holy Thursday, for the Evening Mass in Cena Domini, there are several proper insertions into the usual form of the Roman Canon: to my mind, the most moving of them occurs at the start of the Institution Narrative, whose opening words Qui pridie quam are at once supplemented by pro nostra omniumque salute, and whose next word, pateretur, is augmented with a further phrase, hoc est, hodie – that is, in literal translation, between "Who the day before" and "He suffered" the words "for our salvation and that of all" are inserted, and then "that is, today" added. In the new ICEL translation, this is rendered "On the day before he was to suffer for our salvation and the salvation of all, that is today".
"On the day before he was to suffer... that is, today". The Sacraments always make present hic et nunc, here and now, the power of Christ, His healing touch. This evening is special because, being the anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist, on the eve of His Crucifixion, we are reminded that this really happened, these mysteries were first set forth this very day.
Of old, a heretic asked, What have we to do with a Christ Who died at Jerusalem? – the answer is, that same Saviour indeed died, but more, He rose again, is alive for ever and ever, has the keys of death and of hell, is present everywhere in His Divinity, ever imparting His grace to souls, and in His sacred humanity is truly with us in His Body and Blood consecrated and offered on every altar, applying the all-sufficient power of His Passion in the Sacrifice and Communion, by which we are made one with Christ and given the foretaste of eternal life. To-day Christ is with us, Emmanuel, mighty to save.
Earlier in the Canon of the Mass on this, the night of His Last Supper, the Communicantes begins with "Celebrating the most sacred day on which our Lord Jesus Christ was handed over for our sake, and" (et diem sacratissimum celebrants, quo Dominus noster Jesus Christus pro nobis est traditus: sed), while the Hanc igitur has a long insertion "which we make to you as we observe the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ handed on the mysteries of his Body and Blood for his disciples to celebrate" (quam tibi offerimus ob diem, in qua Dominus noster Jesus Christus tradidit discipulis suis Corporis et Sanguinis sui mysteria celebranda).
What a play on words! Christ hands over the Mysteries of His own Body and Blood as Sacraments to His disciples; and Judas hands Christ over into the hands of His enemies. But in His betrayal to torment and death is the vicarious suffering that wins salvation for us and all: a supreme sacrifice whose anniversary is to-morrow, and re-presented sacramentally to us this evening, to-day, as once on the evening of His Last Supper He prefigured the events of Good Friday, giving Himself with His own hands (se dat suis manibus).