A Time Called … MAUNDY Thursday

We speak of the church year, but we break it into smaller bits like Lent. A still smaller bit of Lent is Maundy Thursday. At each step, our focus sharpens as we move from a wideangle lens to a close-up shot. Through today’s lens we see the events of Maundy Thursday.

Historical Roots of Maundy Thursday

The name comes from the Latin mandatum novum (“new commandment” John 13:34) – from the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. The foot-washing service dates back to the 7th century, when bishops and abbots used it to symbolize their servanthood. Now, a foot-washing service is for everyone. A celebration of the Lord’s Supper in commemoration of its institution began in the 4th century. In our tradition, however, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper always goes beyond historical concerns to its full meaning as a sacrament. Possibly the oldest act (which is no longer practiced) was a public reconciliation for penitents, prior to readmission to communion at Easter.

Finding Meaning in the Tradition

These riches are a lot to put into one service. Perhaps one thing will stand out for us. In the foot-washing service, we might see that it is not the act which gives meaning, but who is doing it that carries the message of radical servanthood. In the Lord’s Supper, we may focus on God’s gifts, strengthening us to face tomorrow in faith. We remember the commandment to love one another and ask for a new beginning in love. We remove the colour and decoration of our sanctuary, symbolizing the colour and creativity that left the world when Jesus died – leaving that story to stand unadorned. Your service of worship may end with the ancient tradition of stripping the chancel and sanctuary of decoration and colour. We wait for Good Friday.

Questions for Personal Meditation

 In what ways am I learning to love?

 Is it harder for me to serve another, or let another serve me? Where is Jesus asking for growth?

 If things of colour and decoration were removed from the sanctuary, how did that affect me?