What Is Maundy Thursday?

April 1, 2010 Comments Off on What Is Maundy Thursday?

Today is Maundy Thursday and there is a lot of bareness going on- bare feet, bare altar, bare souls.  This is heavy-duty church.   Within this one service, we walk with Christ through the Last Supper, washing of feet, and on the path to death.  We come face to face with the greatest gifts of life and also with the profound experience of loss.

On this Holy Thursday, we are given a new commandment- to love one another.  This is Jesus’ greatest message, his last teaching.  He demonstrates how he has loved us- through the breaking of bread, the sharing of his body and blood, and teaches his disciples to remember this message when they break bread with one another.  The Last Supper provides us with the life-giving sustainers which carry us through our days and connect us with the larger body of Christ.

In the Maundy Thursday service, we are also given the gift of learning humility and service.  With a mild amount of discomfort we offer each other this humility through taking turns washing feet, remembering how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as he taught that he came to serve, rather than to be served.  These gifts give us the roadmap for our calling in the world- to serve others, to break bread with peace, and to love one another.

Maundy Thursday also allows us to confront our deepest sense of loss, loneliness, abandonment, betrayal and pain.  Through the stripping of the altar, we remember Jesus is denied by a friend, betrayed by another, lost to the world, and left alone in the hands of those who would strip, persecute and crucify him.  This is when Jesus is fully human, and therefore, when we can connect with him in our humanity.  The church and altar are left bare, as is Jesus, without friend or hope as he wonders, “My God, Why have you forsaken me?” In this one Holy Thursday we walk with Jesus as we are given all of life, and then left without.

Our tradition is to not leave Jesus alone during his time of loss, but to wait by his side, hour-by-hour, as the Eucharist is placed in the altar of repose.  This signifies a seed of hope stored deep in our hearts when in this place of sorrow.  Much more will come as we walk with Christ through Good Friday and Easter.  In just two days we hear “Alleluia” for the first time in 40 days, and we feel secure in the good news when we hear the bells ring at the Easter Vigil. But for now we face what is in us that is lost, broken, and abandoned, and we wait hour-by-hour with Christ on hope of the resurrection.

– Caroline Peacock

Tonight’s service begins at 6:30pm at 487 Hudson Street, New York, NY. It will be a Choral Eucharist with Footwashing, Agape Supper and Stripping of the Altars. We welcome newcomers. If you have questions about this service or Holy Week at St. Luke’s, please contact us.

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