God told Moses that the Passover was to be like the first day of the year. As if time would be reckoned from that point. It is the great feast of freedom from the slavery of Pharaoh. God claimed his people as his own and saved them.
To day we celebrate a feast that has its roots in the Passover of so long ago.
Then, God entered history, he came down to earth to win their freedom.
Now, God comes into history again, this time fully man and fully God, to win our freedom from sin and death.
Then, the feast was centered on a meal in which a spotless lamb was offered and the people were saved by its blood.
Now, a spotless lamb offers Himself and we are saved by his blood.
Then, God commanded a remembrance of the feast.
Now we are commanded to keep the memory of what was done for us.
Then the lamb and the meal was a foreshadowing of what was to come.
Now, He is here with us as he promised.
At that meal in the upper room Jesus instituted the sacrifice he would endure.
Taking normal earthly things. Things that nourish: bread and wine and He made them into himself for our spiritual nourishment. Our waybread to keep us in grace as we make our way to eternal life.
To make this possible, He, our eternal high priest, instituted the ministerial priesthood with his Apostles. Twelve men chosen by him, who had traveled with Him, prayed with Him, heard His preaching, and witnessed the wonders He worked.
He sent them out to teach all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St Paul transmits the tradition he received to the Corinthians already established from the earliest days of the Church.
Those ancient words we use today to consecrate the simple elements of bread and wine and make them into the body and blood of our Lord in all his humanity and all his divinity.
At the supper Jesus gave us a new commandment:
to love one another as He loved us.
In old English this day is called Maundy Thursday. I was always confused by those terms “Spy Wednesday and “Maundy Thursday.” Maundy comes form the Latin mandatum or commandment: the command to love one another. He left us the example of washing the Apostle’s feet. That is a symbol. His purpose was to make this alive for us. So that we too will be servants to each other from the heart.
There is a discord in the reading. Jesus says, “Not all of you are clean.”
This reminds us that he will be betrayed and the events that follow will lead to His death on the cross.
It is that sacrifice that gives power to the Eucharist. The Eucharist and the Cross are intimately related.
And that is the other aspect of the mystery of the Holy Mass:
it is sacrifice and meal.
It is earthly and divine.
It is simple in its elements.
but what a depth of mystery!
For me as a priest Holy Thursday Mass is like an anniversary. This psalm, Psalm 116 has an even deeper meaning.
The cup of salvation I will take up.
To you will I offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving
My vows to the Lord I will pay
In the presence of all his people