As we progress through Holy Week, we reach Maundy Thursday. In some Christian traditions, today marks the begin of a remembrance that begins after the Maundy Thursday and lasts until Easter. The three-day remembrance is seen as a special season of the year known as the Holy, Easter, or Paschal Triduum.
For me the Paschal Triduum has always had a strange place in my own devotional life. At various points in my ministry I have celebrated Good Friday with a Cross Walk (think stations of the cross marked by readings and often shared by various churches in an ecumenical fashion), celebrated a special service on Good Friday, and have opened the church for prayer and reflection. Holy Saturday has often been a time when I’ve spent the day in silence or doing acts of kindness for others.
Even in the midst of the celebration of the Triduum, Maundy Thursday has always had a special place in my heart. John Wesley taught that the act of communion is a gift of grace that extends a real and powerful benefit to the people of Christ. I have always found the act of communion to be a deep and meaningful expression of God’s love and grace. As such, I find the celebration of the remembrance of that first communion to be incredibly meaningful.
Today’s lectionary reading covers a great deal of that celebration, but beautifully it tells the story through the eyes of the Gospel of John. I usually default to Luke’s Gospel in a lot of my own theology, but the beauty of John’s remembrance of that night is powerful and life altering.
In John’s lectionary reading (13:1-17, 31-35) the story told does not revolve around communion but instead around the washing of feet. Jesus knows that the end of His journey towards Calvary is near, so John tells us that Jesus takes on the role of a servant. Removing his outer garment, Jesus wraps himself in a towel and washes the feet of His disciples.
The Lord of the Universe, the One we crown with many crowns, the Lamb upon the throne spends some of the last moments of His time alone with His disciples washing their feet like a servant. The King who was, and is, and is to come wraps Himself in a towel and washes feet with humility before inviting His disciples to remember what He has done and to do likewise in their own lives.
I truly believe this passage is one of the most challenging passages of Jesus’ ministry because it reminds us of the true order of things. No servant is greater than their master. Our Master humbled Himself. Our Master did not assume the place He deserved, but He took the place that He knew that He must. This is the revealed Image of the Invisible God.
Verily, the place of a disciple is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The next day will be challenging. Let us continue this journey and understand that we go further on the journey towards resurrection having first had a lesson in humility. Easter may be triumphant but triumph comes through first submitting to God’s will and doing so with humility mixed with grace. May God’s grace guide us down the challenging paths as the Triduum begins…