Some years ago I had the privilege of taking a course with Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian who was then on the faculty of the Divinity School at Duke University. Dr. Hauerwas, the son of a bricklayer, was a straight-shooting, no-nonsense kind of guy who believed that living as true disciples of Jesus in the world would necessarily put us in conflict with the culture in which we live. I remember being surprised to hear him say that participating in the Eucharist was one of the most radical actions any Christian could undertake. Tonight we will understand why this is true.
Tonight we watch in wonder as the only-begotten Son of God, the Eternal Word who was “in the beginning with God” and through whom “all things came into being” (Jn 1:1-3), stoops to wash the dirty feet of his disciples. Tonight we behold the Incarnate Son of God, the “King of kings” and the “Lord of lords,” tying a towel around himself, pouring water into a basin, and assuming the role of a servant. The King kneels before his subjects; the Master washes the feet of his disciples. Continue reading →
“Will you stay a little longer, reclining on His bosom; accepting the invitation to have your feet washed; following him to the cross and waiting in the wee hours of the morning for the sun to rise? If you have the courage to stay with Jesus, you may find as the Easter sun shines through these stained glass windows that the identity of the beloved disciple all this time has been you.”
– Br. Jim Woodrum
Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the holiest three days in an already holy week. The liturgy commemorates the humility of the Lord in his willingness to do the most lowly of tasks.
The word maundy is an English corruption of the Latin mandatum, from the ‘new commandment’ that Jesus gives his disciples after washing their feet, an event we reenact and remember in the liturgy. At the conclusion of our Eucharist, we are invited, as were the first disciples, to watch and pray with the Lord on the night before his crucifixion and death. We keep watch through the night, here at the moment of Jesus’ greatest need. On Maundy Thursday, as you are fed by God’s body and blood, pray for your deepest need. As your feet are washed, ask God to bring healing to what is broken in you.
Tonight we are remembering the words and example of Jesus at his last. What we do with the water basin for washing feet and at the altar for receiving the bread and wine, we do “in remembrance” of Christ (1). The Greek sense of this word “remember” is not so much to jog the memory, like tying a string to our finger so we don’t forget what Jesus said. No, it’s a much more profound remembering. It’s to remember like a surgeon “re-members,” when a surgeon re-attaches and sutures some membrane of the body that has been severed. It’s to take something that otherwise would be cut off, broken, lost, detached from our own life, in our relationship with God, to be reattached, reconnected, remembered. To re-member or be remembered in this way is to quite literally get in touch with Jesus, and at the deepest possible level. Continue reading →
To view photos from Maundy Thursday 2012 at the Monastery click here.
Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the holiest three days in an already holy week. The liturgies of the so-called Triduum (from the Latin meaning ‘three days’) are in actuality one liturgy beginning with the Maundy Thursday eucharist and foot washing, continuing on Good Friday with the veneration of the cross and communion from bread and wine consecrated on Thursday, and culminating with the renewal of our baptismal vows and the first eucharist of the resurrection at the Great Vigil of Easter. Once we commence with worship on Maundy Thursday, we are not formally dismissed until Easter Day. The liturgy of Maundy Thursday commemorates the humility of the Lord in his willingness to do the most lowly of tasks. The word ‘maundy’ is an English corruption of the Latin mandatum, from the ‘new commandment’ that Jesus gives his disciples after washing their feet. In our re-enactment and remembrance of that event, the Superior washes the feet of members of the community, who in turn wash the feet of other community members, who in turn wash the feet of the gathered congregation, who in turn wash the feet of one another. At the conclusion of our eucharistic feast, we are invited, as were the first disciples, to watch and pray with the Lord on the night before his crucifixion and death. Consecrated bread and wine will be removed to the Lady Chapel, and the brothers will keep watch through the night. Any and all are welcome to join us, for as long or as little time as is possible. It is a solemn, sober, and somber night – for we know what the first disciples did not: that Jesus will soon be arrested, tried unjustly, and put to death. Accordingly the church is quietly stripped of all adornment, and the organ and all the bells of the monastery are silenced until the Great Vigil of Easter.
Take up these symbols of the new life: towel and basin and water. Let them be for you a sign of your love for him and your gratitude for all that he has done for you. Let them be for you a pledge of your commitment to serve – not out of duty, but out of love; not to obtain a reward, but to imitate the One who freely and willingly laid down his life for you. Let them be for you a reminder of your true vocation.