Lifting the Cup: An Easter Meditation for Saturday

In many people’s theology, the Saturday of Easter is the day of wrath and punishment.  The Son spent the day entirely separated from the Father.  The day Jesus went to Hell, according to some explanations of atonement.

We think of the “cup” Jesus prayed over in Gethsemane and we naturally think of it as wrath.  This is the cup mentioned by Isaiah and Jeremiah:

The cup of God’s wrath.  The chalice, the stupefying cup, you have drained to the dregs. (Isaiah 51:17)

Take this cup of the wine of wrath. . . . Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: Drink!  Get drunk!  Vomit!  Fall, never to rise again! (Jeremiah 25:15-16)

Jesus did not want to drink this cup, but he did.

But there was another cup Jesus took that last night before the Crucifixion.  At the Last Supper, Jesus shared a cup with his friends:

This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you. (Luke 22:20)

This was not a cup of wrath.  This cup had become a cup of blessing and life.  Jesus also lifted this shared cup.  Henri Nouwen says of this:

Jesus , however, took upon himself all this suffering and lifted it up on the cross, not as a curse but as a blessing.  Jesus made the cup of God’s wrath into a cup of blessings. That’s the mystery of the Eucharist. (68)

We know this second cup well.  We lift it up and declare “Cheers!” to our friends.  This blessing for life and goodness is what makes the cup that we drink — the life that we live — rich and worthwhile.  Life lived with and for others is the best life of all.  One can and should only lift the cup in celebration with others.  We don’t “drink” alone.

Lifting up the cup is an invitation to affirm and celebrate life together. . . . As we lift up our cup in a fearless gesture, proclaiming that we will support each other in our common journey, we create community. . . . Lifting our lives to others happens every time we speak or act in ways that make our lives for others. . . . We lift the cups of our lives to bring life to each other. (pp. 56, 57, 58, 71)

Lifting the cup of life with and for others lifts all of our experiences into the line of vision of others, the joys and the sorrows.  Nouwen summarized it this way:

We must dare to say: “I am grateful for all that has happened to me and led me to this moment.”  This gratitude which embraces all of our past is what makes our life a true gift for others, because this gratitude erases bitterness, resentments, regret, and revenge as well as all jealousies and rivalries.  It transforms our past into a fruitful gift for the future, and makes our life, all of it, into a life that gives life. (75)

Today we celebrate a Savior who is lifting the cup of wrath so as to transform it tomorrow into the cup of blessing.  Tomorrow, we will drink the cup of life.  Cheers!