“Why is this night different from all other nights?” Tomorrow Evening in Jewish homes throughout the world, that question will be asked four times by the youngest person present. The question will interrupt a meal called a Seder which is the beginning of the celebration of Passover. Each time the question is asked, the host will tell a portion of the story of the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt. As Christians, we might well ask the same question tonight as we celebrate Holy Thursday – Why is this night different from all other nights?
Tonight inaugurates the Triduum – the three days that is at the center of the Christian Calendar – three days set aside as sacred time. Three days that offer us moments of instruction and memory and celebration of God’s love –moments that interrupt the normal flow of our days.
Tonight we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper – Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist which took place at a Passover meal. We will celebrate after sundown – there being no celebration of Eucharist during the daylight hours. After tonight, the Eucharist will not be celebrated again until the Easter Vigil. Tonight we will interrupt the Lord’s Supper to call to mind in a very poignant way Jesus’ interruption of that long-ago Passover meal when He washed His disciple’s feet symbolizing the humble service which is to be one of the hallmarks of Christian living. Tonight the altar will be stripped and all superfluous decoration eliminated from our Churches and Chapels. Indeed tonight will be different from all other nights as we begin to celebrate the final movement of our redemption – our deliverance from darkness into light – from the bondage of sin into the freedom of a child of God. Tonight we begin to celebrate in a focused special was The Paschal Mystery – the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Passover each year making present the events of long ago – as they tell the story once again of their salvation – we recall in a special way through liturgical action, prayer and meditation OUR Passover – we tell our story again.
In our First Reading from The Book of Exodus, we call to mind the First Passover Meal and in our Second Reading from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Corinth we call to mind Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist and His instruction to eat the Bread and drink the Cup and so proclaim His death until He comes in glory.
Tonight we remember Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and His instruction to them AND us to do likewise for one another – to get down on our knees. Tonight, the Church through its liturgy presents us with the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the gift of Eucharist and to reflect on the great commission – the mandatum – the mandate to do as Jesus did – to take on the role of loving servants to one another. Yes, tonight will be different from all other nights.
The Hebrew people were different after The Passover Experience – they came to an understanding of themselves as a people special to God – and they were never the same again. The disciples of Jesus were also different after His Passion, Death and Resurrection – they had been witnesses to a singular event and they would never be the same again.
Why will this night be different from all other nights?? Because tonight is the beginning of the one liturgy – spread over three days – wherein we enter into the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus who is the source of our salvation.
Through the celebration of these three days may we all be graced – so as to never be the same again.
… Brother Gus Parlavechio, C.P.