Maundy Thursday 29th March 2018

The following is a repeat of the Lenten reflections that refer to the worship on Maundy Thursday. The sermon for this evenings worship will follow later.

Our Maundy Thursday worship takes us on an emotional roller coaster.
We are taken to the upper room
where Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples;
introducing what has become the Eucharist, in sharing bread and wine.
The meal also included the washing of his disciples’ feet
and his commission that they serve as he had served.
After the Eucharist the altar and the sanctuary area are stripped
in preparation for the prayer vigil that is kept until midnight;
remembering Jesus’s prayer of anguish, and betrayal in Gethsemane.
It ends with Gospel reading of our Lord’s arrest and the disciples fleeing.
Earlier in the day there is a service in the Cathedral
where the Bishops bless the holy oils that are used in parish ministry
and the clergy of the diocese renew their ordination vows.
We reflect more on each of these in the coming days.

One of the most moving devotions in Holy Week for me
is the washing of hands at the Maundy Thursday worship.
We wash hands as a modern day equivalent to the washing of feet,
it is also a practical way of being able to involve everybody in the ritual.
Water is poured over our hands with a prayer of blessing,
it is a symbol of our willingness to serve and to allow others to serve us.
During this ceremony my mind is always taken to those beautiful words
from Graham Kendrick’s hymn, which we sing that evening:
“hands that flung stars into space, to cruel nails surrendered”.
The hands of Christ which healed, blessed, and served
finally surrendered in love to the cruel nails that awaited him.
This simple ceremony asks us:
Will you surrender your hands to the service of love?

For me one of the most beautiful Eucharist’s that we celebrate together
is the one we celebrate on Maundy Thursday evening.
Yes, there is immense joy in celebrating the Eucharist
at Midnight Mass, on Christmas Morning and on Easter Day,
but on Maundy Thursday we celebrate the Eucharist
remembering the very night our Lord took bread, blessed and broke it,
and took wine, blessed, poured and shared it,
and gave it to each his disciples saying: Do this in remembrance of me.
There is something very poignant and powerful
about the Eucharist we celebrate on this evening.
Although it came at the end of his life it marked a new beginning.
It tells us that the Gospel story is not just an historical event,
it is about you and me today continuing that story in our lives.

At the end of the Maundy Thursday Eucharist
the scene changes dramatically.
We are reminded of the sudden change of mood at the last supper
when Judas leaves to betray him and Jesus takes his closest disciples
to pray with him in the garden of Gethsemane.
After the beautiful symbolism of the Last Supper, washing, and anointing, we enter into the long dark night when Jesus would be arrested, deserted, ridiculed and tortured
as the events of Good Friday began to unfold.
This is all anticipated in the stripping of the altar and sanctuary,
while that haunting Psalm 22 is read out loud
reminding us of what is to unfold in the coming hours.
The sanctuary is stripped of altar cloths, candles, frontals,
and made as bare as possible ready for the devotions of Good Friday.
It marks our own hearts being laid bare before the love of God.

The vigil that follows the Maundy Thursday service invites us
to sit and watch with Christ during his anguished prayer,
and his pivotal decision in Gethsemane to say “yes”
to all that was to unfold in the coming night and day.
This night showed the human emotions of Jesus in turmoil,
and his willingness to completely surrender to love’s call.
We are told that he prayed that “the cup may be taken from him”,
yet, despite his anguish, also praying: “not my will, but thy will be done.”
As we sit with Jesus on this holy night,
we keep silent prayer in the chapel up to Midnight.
The silence is broken only by prayers at 10pm, Compline at 11pm,
and the Gospel reading of his arrest just before midnight.
You can come and leave as you wish during this time.