By the Rev. Darren Miner
With this service of Evening Prayer, we enter into the very heart of the Christian Mystery, as we begin what is called in Latin the Triduum Sacrum, which means, “the three holy days.” This evening, we commemorate the Last Supper; tomorrow afternoon, on Good Friday, we contemplate the Crucifixion of Our Lord; then on Sunday morning, we joyously celebrate his Resurrection.
As I just mentioned, this evening, our focus is the Last Supper, in which Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist. St. Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians should sound very familiar. There we hear a version of the Words of Institution that we also find in Matthew, Mark, and Luke—the words we hear at every celebration of the Eucharist: “This is my body which is given for you…. This is my blood of the new covenant.” These words remind us of the meaning of the bread and the wine that we share in Communion. For through that food and drink, made holy through our prayer and the action of the Holy Spirit, we are mystically united to Christ and to one another.
But, unlike all these other accounts of the Last Supper, the account found in the Gospel of John contains a unique narrative element. It tells us of Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples while they were at table. Now, washing feet was no token act in Jesus’ day; people’s sandaled feet got filthy. So, foot-washing was usually the work of the lowest slave in the house. But in a small household that had no slaves, it was the duty of a child toward a parent or of a wife toward a husband.
Just imagine Jesus the Messiah, Son of God and Second Person of the Holy Trinity, crawling along the floor, half-naked, washing the filth off his followers’ feet. No wonder Peter resisted the idea! But Jesus insisted. He insisted because he had a lesson to impart—a lesson that he could only teach by example. That lesson is to love and serve others in the same way that Jesus loved and served all his disciples.
In this time of pandemic, when we are distracted and frustrated and afraid, it is easy to overlook those whose service makes our life possible. Brothers and sisters, remember, and give thanks for, the doctors and nurses who risk their lives to save others. Remember the mailman, the grocer, the bus driver, the soldier, the bank teller, the policewoman, the fireman, the farm worker. These people go to work and risk their lives, so that the rest of us can stay safe at home. What used to be mundane jobs have become acts of sacrificial service. And we should remember these acts of service long after the pandemic is past.
In more normal times, we would commemorate the institution of the Eucharist with a Eucharist. But this is not possible now. We would gather in the parish hall for a simple meal of lentil soup and pita bread. But this is not possible now. We would silently strip the altar and clear out the chancel in preparation for Good Friday. But this is not possible now.
What is possible is to gather together on a conference call and to pray Evening Prayer. What is possible is to gather at our dinner tables individually and to invite Jesus to sup with us, to be present to us, to abide in our hearts. What is possible is to be still before the Lord, as we sit in confinement, and to wait patiently for deliverance. Amen.
© 2020 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.