Part 1 – Maundy Thursday Evening Meal
Part 2 – Prayers
Part 3 – Maundy Thursday Communion
Part 4 – The Watch
Readings and Sermon
1 Cor 11. 23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for[g] you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
John 13. 1-7, 31b-35
13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table,[a] took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7 Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8 Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9 Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10 Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet,[b] but is entirely clean. And you[c] are clean, though not all of you.’ 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants[d] are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Gathering around a table to eat with friends and family and talking about things of God bring together some of the most important things in life for me. Over the last year or so a number of us have met at St Mary’s for an Agape meal as early Christians did, as the “Living Word” group. At first it can seem like a strange practice but I learned how to sit comfortably with this ‘table talk about God’ initially through years of Sakakini Thanksgiving meals in America where an often rag-tag group surprisingly naturally exchanged stories of gratitude to God from the past year. This Sunday many of us will not gather for a celebratory Easter meal in the way we have before and, like me, you may find it one of the experiences you miss most.
One of the reasons I miss meals with others, celebratory or not, is because I enjoy the embodied interaction that takes place over food. As human beings, we were made for relationship and eating together is an age-old practice documented in the earliest cave paintings. But it’s not just that; all our senses are engaged by the alluring smell and taste of food, by the joy of seeing faces around the table, by hugs, handshakes, or empathetic touch, and by listening to each others’ stories. And whenever something is scarce it seems that our minds focus on just that thing and its absence is heightened.
I recall an oft-repeated family dinner table story that revolves around a particular song. (You can ask our children for details when you next see them). It’s Joni Mitchell’s iconic song: “Big Yellow Taxi” and the words of the refrain:
“… Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
For 3 weeks now we have not shared in another special meal – the Eucharist – because our church buildings are closed. But of course it’s not gone, and we’ll participate again when this crisis is over, and one day at the celestial banquet. In the mean time participate in ‘spiritual communion’ and are assured by the Church of England we are “partakers by faith of the body and blood of Christ and of all the benefits he conveys to us by them.”
On this night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist as a practice for believers, so that they and we would remember him and the event of the cross in terms of a new covenant in the blood of Jesus. There are various theological views about how this is mediated to us but at the very least, the material bread and wine act as a reminder of what Jesus did and somehow they are mysteriously more. They ‘become for us the body and blood” by means of sacrament which means they are ‘visible signs of an invisible grace’.
If the bread and wine have the potential to be sacramental, do other objects or actions? Let’s explore the event that preceded supper. Jesus shockingly washed his disciples’ feet, shocking because it was a reversal of the norm and by this unusual action he pointed to a deeper meaning. “Do you know what I have done to you?” asks Jesus who is checking for understanding, while acknowledging, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand’. Washing their feet was a visible sign which revealed an invisible grace of God, the grace of true servanthood.
I wonder if we can read other actions this way, asking whether they have the potential to be sacramental too. For example, buying food for someone in isolation is a visible sign of an invisible grace, the grace of generosity and care. The actions of NHS workers points to the grace of selflessness and loving service. In these and many other embodied acts we point to the One in whom all grace is found and whose grace is desperately by us all.
From the book, “The Circle of Grace” by Jan Richardson
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11. 25
Blessing the Bread, the Cup
For Holy Thursday
Let us bless the bread
that gives itself to us
with its terrible weight,
it’s infinite grace.
Let us bless the cup
poured out for us
with a love
that makes us anew.
Let us gather
around these gifts
and deeply blessed.
And then let us go
bearing the bread,
carrying the cup,
laying the table
within a hungering world.
Gill Sakakini 8 April, 2020
Padre Pio’s Prayer about Spiritual Communion (used during the communion service)
I believe that you
are present in the most Holy Sacrament.
I love you above all things,
and desire to receive you into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive you sacramentally,
Come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace you as if you were already there,
and unite myself wholly to you.
Never permit me be separated from you.