As a young boy, I always looked forward to the Triduum, especially to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Being an altar boy was a central part of my childhood, and I always eagerly awaited the Triduum. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in El Paso, Texas, we altar servers learned the additional responsibilities that come when the bishop celebrates Mass – especially during Holy Week. Although the Easter Vigil was my favorite part of the Triduum, the mandatum would always bring me to tears.
At the mandatum, the bishop sets aside his miter and crosier, his chasuble and stole, knelt and poured water over the feet of twelve parishioners. As he washed their feet, the choir sang “As I Have Done for You.” One line always stood out to me: I who made the moon and stars will kneel to wash your feet. If anyone in the congregation looked at me while I was handing towels to the bishop, they would have seen me forcing back tears.
I who made the moon and stars will kneel to wash your feet. Perhaps what made me tear up was these two images side by side: Christ as the eternal logos, the Word of the Father, who made everything out of nothing, took flesh as a dirty, mortal man, bending His knees to wash the [very dirty] feet of his disciples. He is the same person – the creator and crucified one. And this same person loves poor, impetuous Peter and Judas, despite his hard heart.
I shared these childhood memories with a retired Lutheran minister and professor, and was surprised at his reaction: he began to tear up as well! Both of us were moved by Our Lord’s love and compassion for his apostles and for us. I remember the minister gently shaking his head as he talked about Christ’s special love and patience with Peter.
May you encounter the love of Christ this Triduum and always!