Maundy Thursday

The Maundy Thursday service traditionally commemorates both the institution of the Lord’s Supper and Jesus’ new command to his disciples to love one another from John 13:34 (I give you a new commandment...Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another). It is from this new commandment, novum mandatum in Latin, that the name “Maundy Thursday” is derived.

On this night gathered with his disciples for the last time, Jesus picked up a towel and tenderly washed the feet of his disciples. He told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” He told the disciples, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example...” Could Jesus really have meant for us to do the same. To bend down, pick up a towel and tenderly wash each other’s feet?

Through the liturgy, on this night of love and betrayal, suffering and hope, Christ beckons us to become what we are, to take on his very identity so that the “new commandment” can take flesh in our hearts, to learn to pour back into the world the love that embraces, forgives, and attends to suffering in all its forms. Christ then beckons us to further take him into ourselves in the Eucharist, attentive to his presence so that we might be further strengthened and graced to become his presence in the world.

Then, like the early Christians in Jerusalem, we make our way in procession to the “garden” where we hear about Jesus’ arrest, and do our best to “stay awake for even one hour.” We do our best to attend to the tension of Christ’s absence and presence in prayers before the Sacrament.

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The Easter Vigil

The Rev. Abbott Bailey, rector, St. Andrew’s Church. Sections of this reflection include amended excerpts from “Contemplations on the Liturgical Experience of Holy Week” by the Reverend Dr. Lindon Eaves (1993) and Steven Van Voorhees (2002).