No greater Love...
Tonight is a night of endings and beginnings. What we started, the journey we began on Ash Wednesday will be competed here tonight. The journey we start tonight does not end until the Resurrection of Easter. In ancient times this time was called the Triduum, "The Three Sacred Days," which lead us to Easter: Maundy Thursday (with it's all night Vigil of the Blessed Sacrament), Good Friday, and Holy Saturday to prepare us for the Vigil of Easter.
Tonight as a bridge between Lent and the Triduum, we will see the theme of love, our Savior's love for us. We will follow Him as He expressed that love in the washing of the disciples' feet, in giving Himself in bread and wine, in His dying upon the cross.
We will confess our sins, but unlike Ash Wednesday, the focus is on absolution. Forgiveness comes now "in the name and by the command of our Lord". In fact tonight we read of the new commandment, to "Love one another." On this, the very night of His betrayal, Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment: to love one another as He had loved them.
We say our prayers The Altar is made ready. The time of the Lord's Supper arrives, and our Lord is revealed in bread and wine as once He "revealed Himself to His disciples." As much as we would like to, we can not linger at the Table, for His betrayal is upon us.
Before we know it, the effects of betrayal are played out before our eyes. The symbol of Christ in our midst, the Altar, is stripped bare. The Gospel banners are removed from the Nave, the last ornaments removed from the Sanctuary, and the Reserved Sacrament removed from the Tabernacle. Christ is stripped of His power and glory. He is taken from us, we are destitute and despairing, Good Friday is inescapable. The powers of darkness work upon Him.
We leave this place in silence, no benediction, no blessings, tonight our Salvation is wrought.
Almighty Father, Whose dear Son, on the night before He suffered, instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, Who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and Who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.