Maundy Thursday, Year C, 2019
Kevin Gore, St Andrew’s Mountain Home
Maundy Thursday is the first day of the Paschal Triduum, a series of three days that takes us through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It begins with the observance on the evening of Maundy Thursday, recalling the last supper, where Jesus washes his disciples feet, where he institutes the eucharist with those words, “Do this in remembrance of me”, and where he gives us the new commandment to love one another as he loves us.
If you are wondering what exactly it means to have a Maundy type of Thursday, it is a word derived from the Latin mandatum, the same place we get words like mandate. It is defined as a law, an order, a command to do something. The use of the word reflects the importance of Jesus’ commands to the Church. This is no ordinary Thursday night. In fact for Jesus and the disciples, this is no ordinary Passover meal either.
This evening our service is full of very physical reminders of these things, just as the last supper would have been. Imagine for a minute the experience of that evening with Jesus. First, this leader, this teacher, someone who you have seen perform miracles, now gets down and washes the feet of his disciples. They object of course, this task is only for the lowliest slave, but the teacher insists. He is teaching his followers that they must humble themselves to each other, to show the most delicate of care for their fellow humans, especially any over whom they have authority. Something to consider in this act, though it is not explicitly mentioned, is that Jesus would have washed Judas’ feet too. Jesus knew who was going to betray him…and yet washed his feet. It is not just the feet of those we have concord with that we should wash.
Then comes the meal. The Gospels disagree on whether this was a Passover meal, or just a meal, but if it was for Passover, just hours before they ate, they would have slaughtered a lamb to cook for the dinner. Blood was not an uncommon sight, and the imagery already a part of Passover would be in their minds when Jesus motions to the wine and says, “This is my blood” and to the bread, “this is my body”. Again, one might assume that in sharing this first eucharist, Judas was given a morsel of bread and a drink of wine like everyone else.
Finally the command, the mandate to love one another as Christ loves us. What comes next for Jesus after this night would test anyone’s resolve of love for another. This is God’s ultimate act of love for creation. To die in an absolutely brutal fashion, to be stripped of all dignity, and to do so as an act of love.
Tonight feet get washed. Tonight bread is broken and wine is poured. Tonight after all that is done, we go with Jesus to quiet place to watch and pray. We strip the sanctuary of all adornment. We leave altar bare, the aumbry empty.
We have much to consider on this Maundy Thursday. These symbols, some of which we engage in only once a year, are not just meaningless, empty rituals. These are ways we enter into Jesus’ story. Contemplate the ways in which God’s love is shown to you throughout life, and to others through your actions. This is our call, our work as followers of Jesus Christ. Let us always be seeking a deeper understanding of the love that is reflected in our thoughts, words, and deeds.