Today is Holy Thursday or in our Anglican tradition we say “Maundy Thursday.” The word “Maundy” is from the Latin “mandatum,” or “mandate.” “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos.” Translated this reads, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34) On this holy night Jesus gave to His Church His “new commandment” and that is “to love.
On this night Jesus did so many things that were done to become the pattern for His Church to live and minister by.
- Jesus washes the feet of His apostles as a sign of His love for them and their successors, and as marking “the way of the Church.” He commands, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (Jn 13:15)
- Jesus celebrates the first Mass. (Matt 26:20, 26-29; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:14-20; Jn 13:1-38; and 1 Cor 11:17-34.
- During the first Mass He institutes the ordained priesthood. When Jesus spoke, “Do this for remembrance of Me” (Lk 22:19 and 1 Cor 11:24) these words after the consecration of the bread and wine, ordained the apostles priests for offering the sacrifice that is the Mass. This priesthood of Christ is still with the Anglican Church today as men are ordained to the three-fold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons. Later on, after His resurrection, Jesus would expand the spiritual powers of the priesthood by bestowing on the apostles His authority to absolve sins. This gift of authority came when Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sin you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (Jn 20:22-23) Just as when God breathed over creation in the beginning to make life within man so the breath of Christ breathed upon the apostles created the sacrament of reconciliation which a priest uses to create and make a new heart within the person who is contrite and seeks God’s love and help.
- Jesus calls His commandment to love a “new commandment.” St. John reminds us that this commandment is “new” and it is also “not new; [but an] old command, that we have had from the very beginning…. However the command is new because its truth is seen now fulfilled in Christ and also in you. For the darkness is passing away, and the real light is already shining.” (1 Jn 2:7-8) This is the love that Jesus calls His Church to “abide in.” (Jn 15:9)
- After this first Mass was completed Jesus prayed for the unity of His Church in the Garden of Gethsemane.
These events and many more mark the beginning of the “paschal triduum.” These next three days form the summit of our liturgical year. Though they are detailing the last three days in our Lord’s earthly life, liturgically they “unfold” as “one great day” showing us the unity of Christ’s paschal mystery. This unfolding is seen through worship at the Mass of the Lord’s “Last Supper”, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord!
Love unites us to Christ and it is to unite us to those people around us where we spend the greater part of our lives. How well do they see you as a disciple of Christ? God’s love poured out through our life should not be reserved for important matters or persons, but it should be found even among the smallest of details of our daily life.