Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Lent ends tomorrow morning. The Holy Three Days or Sacred Triduum begins tomorrow evening with the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper. At that Mass we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood and Jesus's great commandment of love in service to each other.
The gospels according to Mark, Matthew, and Luke tell the story of Jesus taking bread, blessing it, and giving it to his disciples saying: "Take it; this is my body." (Mk. 14:22) Later, he takes a cup filled with wine, gives thanks to His Father, and gives it to His disciples with the words: "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many." (Mk. 14:24) These are words like those we hear every time we go to Mass. We call them the "Words of Institution" meaning the words used to institute or establish the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The command "Do this in memory of me" (Lk.22:19) is both the establishment of the priesthood and His desire that all His disciples should be fed with His True Body and True Blood.

St. John's Gospel, the last of the four to be written down and the most theologically complex and beautiful has no account of the breaking of bread and passing of the cup at the Last Supper. The Fourth Gospel tells the story of that last meal of Jesus with His disciples and the focus is on "The Washing of the Feet". The commandment of service in love is so beautifully illustrated by what Jesus did for His disciples when He washed their feet. (Jn. 13:1-15) It is called the Mandatum or Commandment and from that we have the other name for the day, Maundy Thursday.  These are the words:
So when he had washed their feet (and) put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. (Jn. 13:12-15) and a little while later He says more explicitly: I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (JN.13:34-35)
A tall order, no?
Judas was still there for that, remember. How must the fact that Jesus had washed his feet just moments before the betrayal added to his dispair.