Troparion Tone 8
When Thy glorious Disciples were enlightened at the supper by the feet washing, then the impious Judas was darkened with the disease of avarice, and he delivered Thee, the Just Judge, to the lawless judges.
Reading From the Book of Exodus
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening.
Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.
The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever.
~Chapter: 12, Verses: 1-8, and Verses: 11-14
Reading Psalms 116
What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am thy servant; I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid. Thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
Gospel of John
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.
Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”
Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.”
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you.”
For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.”
When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?
You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.
~Chapter: 13, Verses: 1-15
In the Old Testament Passover, each household in Israel offered a Lamb for sacrifice. On the day before the delivery of Israel from Egypt, the people of Israel received an instruction to take some of the blood of the Lamb and apply it to the two doorposts and lintel of every house. The blood of this sacrificial lamb saved each household from the scourge of the angel of death. It is significant that the Last Supper of Jesus took place during the celebration of the Israelite Passover. Thus, the Lord’s Supper indicates that Jesus replaces the blood of the sacrificial lamb with his blood, which is poured out for the salvation of many. The event of the Lord’s Supper also presents Jesus as the new Moses through whom God sends the Manna from heaven.
Just as the Passover of the Old Testament was a memorial feast for the people of Israel, so is Passover of the New Testament a memorial feast for the people of the new and eternal covenant. The new Passover feast, popularly known as the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Unlike the old Passover which is celebrated once a year, the new Passover (the Eucharist) is celebrated always. This is because the expression of gratitude for salvation is unlimited. Jesus says: “Do this in remembrance of me… For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes”. As he offers this sacrifice of thanksgiving, Jesus plays the role of Melchizedek, the High Priest who offers Bread and Wine.
Holy Thursday is also known as Maundy Thursday because during the celebration of the Last Supper Jesus gives a new mandate “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”). Jesus translated this new mandate into action when:
He rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist
Jesus did the unusual on the day of his last supper with his disciples. He washed the feet of Judas who betrayed him; he also washed the feet of Peter who denied him; he stooped to wash the feet of the rest of the Apostles who fled and deserted him when he was arrested. This gesture of Jesus teaches that those who believe in him should serve not only families and friends but should serve also those who oppose and betray them.
The washing of feet is a reminder of the cleansing effect of baptism. Peter could not understand why he would sit down and let his master kneel down to wash his feet and so he said loudly: You will never wash my feet. Jesus responded: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Thereafter, Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet but my hands and head as well.” Those who want to have a common inheritance with Jesus must necessarily pass through the cleansing.
All of these actions fulfill the prophecies of the new and old covenants and prepare Christ to be betrayed in the garden and the arrest that comes next. The holy and intimate moments shared mark the deep contrast between denial and betrayal and the beginning of the suffering of the Passion of Christ.