“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
And to the end we come, to that long goodbye that is the Triduum, the Great Three Holy Days of Easter. The operative words for any Maundy Thursday would be love and commandment; even the name of the day, Maundy, comes from the Latin mandatum, as in “Mandatum novum do vobis.” “a new commandment I give unto you.” And that commandment, of course, is that you love one another; as I have loved you, Jesus said, you also love one another.
I’ve heard it said that the most difficult question humanity wrestles with is “Why is there evil in the world,” why do bad things happen? I, however, would contend that the most difficult question in the world is “What does it look like for us to love one another.” That said, I would also contend that Christianity answers both those questions fully. The answer to the first is sin, humanity’s seemingly insatiable need to do what can only hurt us. The answer to the second is Jesus, in that we know what love looks like by looking to Jesus.
Lucky for us here tonight, it’s what we do tonight, what have been commanded to do tonight, that looks like love. First, that odd foot-washing thing. Historically it comes from the need to wash one’s feet after sloshing through the dung-covered streets of everywhere in the ancient world. Someone had to do the washing, almost always the least of the servants of any given household or inn, but in the case of the Last Supper, the foot-washing serves as a reminder that we are meant to serve one another with love, as a reminder that even God incarnate is willing, because of His love for us, to serve us in such a manner. The Maundy persisted of course, and the heads of the three great Churches, the Anglicans, the Romans, and the Orthodox, all wash the feet of the poor on the Thursday before Easter.
Second, the Sacrifice of the Mass, that command of Jesus the Church fulfills daily around the world. Every once in a while, it doesn’t matter if I’m the one saying the Mass or if it’s someone else, I find myself during the Agnus Dei just staring at the Body and Blood of our Lord on the Altar in shock, really, that we get to be so close to the very life-blood of God. We get to say those same words our Lord said on that first Maundy Thursday, we get to perform that loving act that Love Himself commanded us to do.
We’ve come to that long goodbye that is the Triduum, and we’ve still got a long way to go until we get to say hello once again. The good news here tonight is that along the way we get to see what love looks like. +