Today is Holy Thursday, a day full of meaning and very important in our Church life, our liturgical life, our spiritual life, our Christian cultural life. It commemorates the last meal that Our Divine Lord had with his disciples before his death and resurrection. It was a Passover meal, a religious rite and service, crucial to Jewish observance.
Ordinarily, a servant washed the face, hands and feet of the guests who came into a home. But Jesus wants to be our servant, so he insists upon washing the feet of his disciples himself. It is very striking to see the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Almighty God, down on the floor, a towel wrapped around his waist as in the case of a domestic servant, washing the feet of his disciples, knowing as he did that within just a few hours one of those disciples would betray him to his enemies and another of them would deny that he even KNEW Our Lord.
They ate the Passover meal together; on the menu of that meal was lamb which had been sacrificed as an offering to God. Its flesh was eaten by those present. It was eaten with unleavened bread, that is, flat bread somewhat like our soda crackers and the Jewish matzos. Later on, when the meal was ended, another cup of wine was drunk with an appropriate blessing. This man, whom Saint John the Baptist had called “The Lamb of God” enters into the Passover meal for that particular meal on that special night and in all the Passover and Eucharistic meals until the end of time. He is the Lamb of God who takes away sin. He takes the bread and says, “This is my body.” He takes the cup of wine and says “This is the cup of my blood.” And then he says something extremely important for the entire Christian community. He says “Do this in memory of me.” And by saying this, he gives those disciples of his the ability to change bread and wine into his body and blood, and thus confers upon them the power of the Christian priesthood.
He then leads them out of the city, onto the Mount of Olives where the garden of Gethsemani—an olive grove—is located, there to prepare by prayer for the ordeal that lies ahead of him. Ordinarily in an olive grove there was an oil press in which the olives were squeezed to obtain their precious oil which was used for so many things in that culture, principally for food. We will think of that later this week. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.