Dear Christ Church Family,
Tonight is Maundy Thursday. As or scriptures this day make clear, this is the beginning of the final moments of our Savior’s life before his death on the Cross. What he does this night will forever change the course of human history. To understand that better, read the devotional that follows, then plan to join us virtually for our service tonight.
Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
AM Psalm 102
Maundy Thursday: beginning the journey into the heart of Holy Week. Tonight is the beginning of the holiest of vigils; the “Watch” for the Resurrection. A series of three observances over three days mark out this vigil. In Latin these three days are called the “Triduum” (which simply means “the three days”). These final days of Holy Week are the most sacred in the Christian calendar. Here at Christ Church the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday observances are held as services in our sanctuary, while the third of the Triduum, the Saturday Easter Vigil itself, is a personal observance for each of us at home.
Maundy Thursday starts the cycle. The church community gathers to remember Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. We call to mind that night that we remember week in and week out in the Eucharist, and we remember Jesus’ words about the bread and wine: “this is my body, and this is my blood.” The word “maundy” in old English means “Mandate” or “command.” There are actually two commands on Maundy Thursday, and they are connected.
The first command is the Eucharist itself: “Do this” Jesus says, “in remembrance of me.” In his classic work on Communion, “The Shape of the Liturgy” the Anglican Theologian Dom Gregory Dix wrote:
“Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and every country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance…[people] have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold.”
Indeed, this mandate to remember Christ in the Eucharist continues to shape the life of millions across the planet, week in and week out.
There is a second, and it’s deeply connected commandment. On Maundy Thursday we read John’s account of the Last Supper. John doesn’t mention bread and wine. Instead the action centers around Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus says, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” The teacher spends his last night with the disciples connecting the dots. To remember Jesus is to serve another.
Tonight at 6:00 pm, though the Covid-19 virus threat has eliminated our ability to gather physically together and made the washing of feet as a ceremony impossible, we will still be able to gather virtually around our computer screens and other devices to celebrate Eucharist, and to remember Jesus. After the Eucharist, the service will conclude with stripping the altar, taking away every decoration that isn’t bolted down. We empty the sanctuary to prepare ourselves for the stark reality of Good Friday.
* With special thanks to the Rector of The Episcopal Church of Holy Communion, University City, Mo.