This morning’s readings remind us that Eucharistic services only happen in the evening of this day as we read in the Hebrew Scriptures the story of the Passover from slavery in Egypt to freedom (EX 12) and in the Christian Scriptures the institution of the Eucharist during what we term the Last Supper. This year’s eight day celebration of Passover for our Jewish brothers and sisters begins tomorrow, coinciding with our remembrance of the events of the Paschal Mystery as Jesus passes through death to new life.
Today’s first reading, the detailed instruction of how the Hebrews are to celebrate Passover, ends saying: “This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate…as a perpetual institution.” I will always be grateful for the understanding I received about the way that happens in the Jewish Seder. When the stories of liberation are read, rather than seeing those chronicled events as past history, the Jewish people experience them as present. The stories are entered into as if they are happening as they are being read. After that realization came to me, I viewed the words of the institution of the Eucharist (which we hear from Paul tonight in 1COR 11) in a different and more vibrant way. And it is now when I hear those words that I can see myself in that upper room listening to the conversation about the new covenant that Jesus is instituting at the supper. Even more visual as the example of what that means for us is the action of Jesus in tonight’s gospel (JN 13:1-15) when he rises from the table and begins to wash the feet of his disciples. Having had just such an experience at a supper table on retreat in 2010, washing the feet of a friend and having my own feet washed in turn, I understand that these events are not past history or only meaningful stories, but are commands of Jesus for now as we live into our faith and come to understand ever more deeply what Jesus meant when he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”