Reflecting on the Celebration of the Lord's Supper
Printable Handout: Preparing for Holy Thursday
The Elect and the children.
We remember our children, whom we are continually forming in the life of our faith community. All our community's “religious education” comes to a special focus for our youngest members.
This Holy Thursday liturgy has the Elect in mind, and it is a wonderful night for children. On this night we act out the meaning of the Eucharist, the meaning of our salvation, and the meaning of discipleship. In our preparing for Holy Thursday, it helps to enter into this experience as a member of a community that desires to show to our newest and youngest members, who we are and who we desire to be.
Psalm 116 asks, “How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me?” The word, “eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” To come to this night prepared to celebrate, we can reflect on all the reasons we have to be grateful. The Spirit of Jesus uses the gift of gratitude to gather us for Eucharist.
Paul tells us the simple and profound words of Jesus, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” The gift and the mandate. And Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” Our celebration on Holy Thursday will show us how to proclaim the meaning of the Lord's gift to us.
John's gospel is a puzzle and a revelation. The account of the Last Supper in this gospel does not include the narrative Paul gives us, as do the accounts in Mark, Matthew and Luke. In this account of the Last Supper, Jesus does not take bread and wine, say the prayer of thanksgiving, break the bread and share the cup, with the words, “This is my body; this is my blood; do this in memory of me.” In this narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus washes his disciples' feet. With this ritual Jesus shows us how he gives us his body and allows his blood to be poured out for us. By his action Jesus says, here I am as servant for you, do this in memory of me.
The Foot Washing.
In the ritual we will experience on Holy Thursday, Jesus washes our feet. The twelve representatives of our community have their feet washed, but each of us is having our feet washed. Each of us needs to feel the resistance of Peter. We have to let Jesus wash our feet, let Jesus give himself to us, let him be our servant. One of the best preparations is to taste my resistance, my independence, my rationalizing which almost convinces me that I don't need washing or healing or saving. Perhaps I need to name the part of my life, the part of myself, I want to surrender to the Lord to be embraced and loved, washed and healed. Perhaps on Thursday morning, I can stand in the shower and experience the Lord's love pour over me. Or, if I live in a part of the world where water is not so plentiful, I can wash my face slowly and gratefully. Preparing is a matter of opening our hearts to the gift we will ritualize on Holy Thursday.
In the ritual we will experience on Holy Thursday, Jesus gives us a “mandate.” He gives us the one commandment of the gospel, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” He gives his very self to us, is broken and poured out, and calls us to give our very selves, to be broken and poured out, in love for others. It is important for us to taste our resistance to love. We can come to Holy Thursday prepared by our reflection on how difficult it is to love some people, either because we recoil at their “smelly-ness” or because we find them unattractive or unable to love us in return. The liberation happens when we let ourselves have our feet washed by Jesus. Then Eucharist flows from our gratitude. Gratitude is the seed for great loving - the return I can make to the Lord for his great love for me.
Just as the foot washing isn't just about those twelve representatives, it isn't just about me and the family and friends I need to love. This ritual can be as big as we prepare to let it be. The love of Jesus is for all of God's people. We need to come to Holy Thursday with the whole world in our hearts. The mandate to love, as Jesus loves, calls us to be people whose self giving love reaches out to all who need liberation and the dignity God desires.
The Table of the Lord.
The Stripping of the Altar
“Do you understand what I have done? You call me your teacher and Lord, and you should, because that is who I am. And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you..”
John 13:12-15Mass of the Lord's Supper
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalms 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Our blessing cup is a communion with the blood of Christ.
Where charity and love are found, there is God.
I know you want to
wash my feet.
know my fear,
me to wash,
O Saving Victim opening wide
The gate of heaven to all below.
Our foes press on from every side;
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.
To Thy great name be endless
St. Thomas Aquinas