Carmel Bulletin, 14 May 2014
The Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper is the beginning of the Easter Triduum. It is the first part of the extended three-day celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the only Mass we are permitted to celebrate in the parish on Holy Thursday.
Each part of the Triduum has a ritual element that makes it unique. While the Missal states that it is optional, the Washing of Feet is particular to Holy Thursday, and many people gather to engage in this unique and moving ritual.
The Latin name for the Washing of Feet, the mandatum, not only lends itself to one of the names for this day (Maundy Thursday), but indicates the focus of this ritual and of this Eucharistic celebration. The point of this ritual is that Christ gives a mandatum novum (new commandment) to love one another as he loved his disicples; a love so great that he would kneel like a servant to wash their feet, and sacrifice himself so that we all may have eternal life. This ritual is also preceded by the proclamation of the only gospel account of the original mandatum (John 13:1-15).
The Last Supper is intended to sustain the apostles as they live their lives beyond that moment, just as the Eucharist is intended to nourish and sustain us beyond the Mass as we go out and ‘wash the feet’ of those we encounter. Thus, the only account of the Last Supper in this celebration is that in the Eucharistic Prayer, when we actually do what Christ gave us to celebrate in his memory.
Neither the Washing of Feet nor the Last Supper are intended to be mere reenactments. Each one of them has a memorial dimension, but they also make Christ present amongst us now, and change and transform us today. They move us to live as disciples today, with our eyes firmly set on the goal that is complete unity with Christ when we take our place at the eternal banquet of heaven.