Maundy Thursday

The category: Worship

The tags:

Today marks the beginning of the sacred Paschal Triduum. To help you to worship over the next few days, you can download our ‘Worshipping at Home in Holy Week’ booklet on the dedicated Holy Week pages on our website.

A video with today’s readings can be found over on our YouTube channel, or you can read them for yourself.
Exodus 12:1-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31-35.

You can also watch the Sermon from the Vicarage for today, or read the text below. We will be celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 8pm at St John’s. By we, I mean just me in church, but you are still very much a part of it, and please do pause and pray if you can at 8pm to give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, and your continued part in its celebration.

It strikes me every year that the Gospel reading for the time we celebrate the Institution of the Lord’s Supper doesn’t actually tell us anything about the institution of the Eucharist. John’s narrative of the Last Supper speaks to us of the washing of feet and nothing about the bread and wine that have become the foundation of Christian worship. So, it seems a slightly odd Gospel for you to listen to or read at home, since the washing of feet won’t be happening, and you won’t be in church to receive communion. 

The Gospel though, doesn’t need to explain what happens. We get that in the other readings. What’s important about this Gospel reading is that Jesus opens up what this sacrament of the Eucharist is going to mean for the world. Immediately, as he explains to the disciples how they are to wash one another’s feet and to love one another, Jesus makes this last supper about far more than just some bread and wine. It is the event in which Jesus communicates to the whole of creation everything about his human and divine life. He offers us a gift that allows us to see into the heart of the Trinity each time the sacrament is celebrated. The bodily presence of Christ brings the fullness of humanity and the fullness of the Godhead into the palm of your hand. But there’s more, because to bring the fullness of the Godhead brings more than just the person of Christ. It brings with it too the majesty of the Father, and crucially for us now, the blazing fire of the Spirit. The Eucharist is not a one-way street. It is the event in which we, the Church, are called to participate in Christ’s mission to restore creation to its former glory. There is an exchange here – by participating in the Eucharist we leave behind ourselves and live for the other. We leave behind ourselves and are moved by the Spirit to wash each other’s feet. We leave behind ourselves and join with the Church on heaven and on earth and sing the unending song of praise that we hope will be ours for eternity. 

It is precisely because the Eucharist is itself the life of the Church, that you remain part of it, even though you’re at home. You are still the Church that is called to wash each other’s feet, something that you do at this time, oddly, but doing nothing and staying at home. You are still the Church when you stop and pray at 8pm tonight and know that even though you can’t be there, the Eucharist is being celebrated for you and with you. You are still the Church, quite simply, because you are baptised. Jesus becomes present among us in the bread and wine because YOU pray that it is so. You say ‘Amen’ at the end of Eucharistic prayer, not me. The Spirit comes down in this Eucharistic life of the Church because the Church prays that it is so. And you can continue to pray that it is so, even though you’re not here. You can still say ‘Amen’ even though it may not be at quite the right time. You can still see into the Trinitarian life of Christ, even if the way that you do that looks different for a while. I know that for many of you, not receiving communion this Easter will be very hard, and trust me, it is as hard for me to be celebrating the liturgies alone. But this shall pass, and you shall return to receiving the sacrament, whenever that may be. And while you may not have been to Mass for a while, remember, you will have been participating all along.