The name Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin, mandatum (to command). There are a number of things that Jesus commands – the washing of feet and the Eucharist among them. But maybe we miss the point? Are we looking at the signs and are not seeing to what they are pointing? Here is the second part of the gospel for today (in APBA):
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:31-34
The Vulgate used the word, mandatum, in verse 34: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another“. At the start of these holy three days the readings remind us that it is all about love. And they remind us that I am personally called by God to be a follower of Jesus and enact His love to those around me.
The washing of feet and the Eucharist are signs of God’s love. The washing of the feet is a sign of service and humility. In the Eucharist it is Jesus Himself who says “for you”. I am always drawn to those words, “for you”. These three holy days, the cross and pain of Jesus, are “for me”. This Jesus meets me personally and says “for you” – one on one. The love of the cross is personal and individual – Jesus loves me now.
What does this “love” look like for me? Jesus says “as I have loved you”. Love is the sacrificial giving of the self to the other. It is placing “you” above “me” in my choices and actions. Or, to put it another way, to be open to God working through me. To not close myself off from God. To allow God to be the middle term in all my relationships.
Worldly wisdom thinks that love is a relationship between a person and a person. Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between person-God-person, that is, God is the middle term.Søren Kierkegaard