Decades before the four Gospels were written, no more than fifteen years following the death and resurrection of Christ, Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians. By then, it was already established practice among the fledgling Christian communities to bind Christ’s Last Supper and Death to the celebration of the Eucharist.

The very earliest Christians had found the way – left to them by Christ – to participate in His sacrifice on the cross. As St Paul recalled, from the tradition he had already received, Every time [we] eat this bread and drink this cup, [we] are proclaiming [Christ’s] death.

While ritually enriched in its style and form, what we are doing at this moment is exactly what Paul participated in with the assembled Church in Corinth. We are truly in the midst of the Last Supper, right here and now, and we are being bound to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, right here and now. This is the ‘new covenant’ God established with us in the broken body and poured out blood of his Son, given to us sacramentally in the Blessed Eucharist.

To participate thoughtlessly in this action, then, as had crept into the behaviour of some in the community at Corinth, is a dangerous thing, for it will undermine the commitment we take on in the Mass, which leads to our new life in Christ. Our eating and drinking of Christ’s sacramental Body and Blood is the means by which God has given us a participation in his Son’s life, death and resurrection. This is what we do, in remembrance of Him.

But on this night, the night before his death, and unlike on other times when we ‘do this in memory of me’, we also look to that other great act of Jesus at the Last Supper. If the eating and drinking of Christ pre-empts the cross, then the moment when Jesus got down on his knees to wash the feet of his disciples, pre-empts the implications of it. As John said of that moment, [Jesus] had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was. What was eaten and drunk, was also done by way of a love that serves.

This is why each time we conclude our Eucharist, we are sent to do what Jesus did: ‘Go…’ At that moment, we bind ourselves to doing what he has already done for us. His new covenant with us, provides the foundational act of loving service that is to be the mark of our lives as his disciples. We are to eat and drink, and worthily so, but we are to also get down on our knees before one another. One is sacramentally renewed each time we celebrate the Eucharist, but the other finds its expression in our lived and daily actions. Jesus says of them both, do this in remembrance of me.

For those of us, like Moses and Aaron of ancient days, who are called to enact a priestly expression of these two remembrances, we are to do so only to make them abundantly available to all God’s people. A priestly life exists to enable Christ’s life to be given, for you. The eating, drinking and serving are done for others, so that they might also participate in Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. What Christ did on the night he was betrayed, on this night, he did for all to partake in.

As we open ourselves to the unfolding of the Paschal Mystery over these next three days, know that we are doing so in a manner given to us by Jesus Christ himself. His sacrifice to receive; his forgiveness to experience; his love to know. Do this in memory of me.