“This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.” (Exodus 12:14a)
This verse is the last line of the Old Testament reading for Maundy Thursday and sums up the account of God’s establishment of the feast of Passover. The ancient Hebrews were called to remember that God had chosen them, called to remember God freeing them.
In the epistle reading allotted for this day (1st Corinthians 11:23-26) we are called to remember the Passover that Christ established for us that we commonly call Eucharist, Communion, or the Lord’s Supper. Paul writes, “...the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
These words are familiar to us because we pray them in some form or another in each of our Eucharistic prayers every time we commune together. Indeed familiarity and remembrance are their purpose. Just as the ancient Hebrews were to eat the Passover meal hurriedly, dressed and packed for a journey to remember God freeing them from Egypt to go to the Promised Land, in the Eucharist we are called to remember Christ’s sacrifice to free us to go and do.
But go where and do what? To what purpose did Christ free us?
The answer comes from our Gospel reading for Maundy Thursday, the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet(John 13:1-5). The reading ends, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet; for I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.”
This is a new commandment. Indeed Commandment is what the word Maundy means, and why we call this day Maundy Thursday. Christ frees us from sin in order that we may love one another. In Christ there is no need for success, power, achievement, or winning. By Christ’s resurrection, we are freed from the pressures of these fallen forces, these idols of opulence. Living into to Christ’s redemption we serve those deemed unworthy. This Easter, as we remember the freedom Christ gave us, we are challenged to give freedom to others.