Dearly beloved in Christ
Last Sunday at the Palm Sunday liturgy, we began the sacred procession that leads us to Easter. Tonight, we stand on the threshold of the most holy Triduum. This triune day celebration, as I articulated last Sunday, represents the heart of the Christian mystery, the death and resurrection of Christ. Yet, before this was to take place, Christ desired to celebrate a Passover meal with his disciples.
This brings us to tonight’s celebration which, in some way, seems to move in two separate directions at the same time. On the one hand, we know from the second reading from Paul that this is the night Christ gave us our participation in his suffering and death on the cross which took place in that Passover meal. At it, he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it saying, “Take…eat…this is my body.” In the say may he took the cup of his blood which was poured out for many. This must have been a very confusing statement for all his hearers that night which would only be understood the next day when his blood was literally poured out on the cross. We celebrated that altered Passover meal tonight in the action of the Eucharist and the concluding procession with the Eucharist ending in silent, humble adoration.
Coupled with this Eucharistic notion of Holy Thursday, we hear a gospel that only tangentially mentions a supper but is, instead, securely focused on the service Christ did for us on the cross. Jesus focuses us on this by washing the feet of his disciples, even stubborn old Peter. In turn, I will wash the chair of the parish council’s feet who will wash someone else’s feet. You may also come forward to wash each other’s feet in humble service. We can all imagine that, in a time in which sandals were lushury items and most people traveled by foot along the same path as animals, the feet we wash are far cleaner than the ones Jesus was washing in that dining hall.
This begs the question: What links the humble service of feet washing to the gifts of the Eucharist? Both are related to the cross, though I will focus more on that tomorrow at the Good Friday liturgy. It seems to me that both actions are lessons in the phrase “Thy will be done,” a phrase we pray each time we say that prayer Jesus taught us and one uttered by Our Lord in the garden of Gethsemane in prayer after this Passover meal.
Why did Christ suffer on the cross? Thy will be done
Why did Christ give us his body and blood in the Eucharist? Thy will be done.
Why do we bend down to wash the feet of each other this night? Thy will be done.
Why do we spend time in prayer each day and especially this night? Thy will be done.
Why do I need to love my enemies and pray for my persecutors? Thy will be done.
Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done…