Maundy Thursday Reflection
Posted on April 9, 2020 by Julian Smith
‘Do this in re-membrance of me!’
‘Was ever a command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of human greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so, wounded and prisoner-of-war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.’
(Dom Gregory Dix)
Tonight is the time of Jesus’s last supper with the twelve disciples; and the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion in which Jesus has been re-membered by his friends ever since. Traditionally we’d be having a short formal communion in the chapel, before enjoying an agape meal together in the vestry in the old Unitarian way, having something like a delicious lamb couscous with pomegranate fruits, passion fruit Pavlova, and good wine prepared and served by our chairman Andrew and I. But not this year. There is no sharing of the silver chalice, unleavened bread and the peace; and no delicious odours, clinking of glasses in the candlelight, and gentle laughter over supper and the washing-up. We are at home and the vestry sits empty in the evening light. But our chapel waits patiently for her church, her people, to return; and the gentle memories of all the previous such Maundy Thursdays fall as blessings on us wherever we are and on the hallowed ground on which we stand even when apart.
Let us draw near in reverence to the mystical table, and with pure souls let us receive the bread and the wine; let us remain at the Master’s side, that we may see how he washes the feet of the disciples and wipes them with a towel; and let us do as we have seen, loving and serving each other in all things. For such are the commandments that Christ gave to his disciples: remember me; and love one another. AMEN.
(An Orthodox Prayer, ‘Oxford Book of Prayer’; amended)
Be re-membered with and in Christ now and evermore. AMEN.