Tonight the Church reflects on three great institutions: the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the institution of Christian service.
The readings recall the journey of the Israelite community and how that journey was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ who is our Passover and our lasting peace. Jesus himself becomes the food for the journey which nourishes and sustains us. The Eucharist re-configures us and re-orients us toward our true calling as sons and daughters of a loving God.
At the Last Supper, Jesus identifies himself as both priest and victim. He is the sacrifice, but also the one who offers the sacrifice. Like Moses, he stands between God and humanity as an intercessor and spokesperson. He is shown to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament high priesthood. Jesus then offers this gift to his disciples who become priests in their own right acting in persona Christi capitis (in the person of Christ the head). When they serve as priests, they act as Christ. Christ works through them to bring about salvation.
Finally, the mandatum (mandate) to do as I have done flips the traditional view of master and servant. A true leader, a true ruler, is one who is also a servant. A master cannot lord it over his or her subjects; rather, a master must be willing to become a slave and serve the least of those under his or her care. This is what true Christian service is all about: I serve another person as Christ would serve them AND I am serving Christ in that person. So in some senses, it is Christ serving Christ.
The liturgy of Holy Thursday reminds us that while we adore the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, that adoration should reflect itself in service to others. One cannot adore without serving and one cannot serve without adoring. The two go hand-in-hand. May our celebration of Holy Thursday lead us to increase both our service and adoration.