Here is a rough precis of my homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper yesterday evening. I spoke briefly about the third theme of the evening - the priesthood - at the end of Mass.
The Collect or Opening Prayer of our Mass this evening used a beautiful phrase, calling the Eucharist "the banquet of love". What a wonderful description of the Sacrament whose institution we celebrate this evening. In fact, in preparing for the Triduum this week, and seeking the Lord's wisdom, I felt the Lord prompting me to simply "Tell them I love them". The Eucharist is an outpouring of that self-giving love that overwhelms us during these precious days.
As a priest - and a human being - I am so often aware of how love pursues us throughout our lives. Babies enthrall us because they exude love - and they draw love from us in return. Visiting a parishioner in Holme Tower hospice this afternoon with her husband, the love between them was quiet but unmistakably palpable. When with the bereaved, there are often tears and sometimes people apologise, but I like to remind them that those tears are a sign of love - so cry on...
So love flows through our humanity from cradle to grave - and beyond. We receive, we give - it is absolutely essential to humanity - and flows from God, who St John tells us IS love.
This evening we are also to reflect on Jesus' washing of the Apostles' feet. This astonishing scene - the Son of God washing the feet of his own creation challenges us about love. In Jesus' day everything was thrown onto the street, so people's feet were, um, rather unpleasant, so the washing of guests' feet was a job left to the lowest servant. What kind of love, then is this that our God-from -God, Light-from-Light, is on his knees before us? This scene, to be imprinted on the Apostles' memories, is firstly symbolic of Jesus' whole ministry as servant-king. Service is love-in-action, as Jesus is God-and-Man. secondly this love is an example. He is absolutely clear that we are to copy him, to wash one another's feet, in whatever way we can do that.
So - a banquet of love is what we gather for every time we come to Mass. We are fed for our own journey and the journey of the Church from the Upper Room to the Second Coming, and on that journey we are to love another as he has loved us, in humility and self-giving.
So we now proceed to the foot-washing. After I have washed twelve parishioners they will take up places around the church and you are invited to have your hands washed by them.