Wednesday, March 27, 2002


The traditional English name for the Thursday of Holy Week is Maundy Thursday.

The most probably explanation of this expression is that it is based upon the Latin, "Dies Mandata", meaning "the Day of the Commandments." It will be recalled that according to the Gospels the Lord Jesus Christ on this day gave to his disciples commandment (1) to commemorate his death [Luke 22:14ff.], (2) to wash one another's feet [John 13:14-15], and (3) to love one another [John 15:12ff.].

Various practices are traditionally associated with this day and originated in the early Church - the repetition of the Creed by the Catechumens who are to be baptized on Easter Eve, the public absolution of penitents and the consecration of the chrism (the baptismal oil and oil for anointing the sick).

The classic BCP envisages that there will be a Service of Holy Communion on this day at which will be commemorated the institution of the Lord's Supper and the narrative of the Passion will be read.

The institution is celebrated through the reading of St Paul's account of the commandment of Jesus "to do this in remembrance of Me" ( 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). The Gospel is Luke's Gospel 23:1-49 and is the continuation of the BCP method of reading the Passion narrative in all four Gospels during Holy Week. Thereby the contents of the Gospel take us through Good Friday and we hear of the Crucifixion of the Lord before it has (liturgically in the calendar) occurred.

The Collect used is that used on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The western catholic traditions of reserving the sacrament for use on Good Friday, of stripping the altars and of keeping watch with Jesus into the night have been taken over by some Anglican parishes. Further, some Anglican dioceses have a service in the Cathedral for the consecration of the chrism/oil and at this (in recent times) clergy have been asked to renew their ordination vows.

For those who cannot go to church services there is much benefit to be had in reading and then meditating upon the three commandments given by our Lord on this day.

"This do in remembrance of me" opens us vistas of possibilities of fruitful thought concerning the way we know Jesus in the Sacrament!

"Wash one another's feet" presents us with a vivid picture of what serving and loving others is all about. No task is too menial for the servant of the servants of the people of God.

And "Love one another as I have loved you" takes us into the depths of meaning of "agape" and "caritas" which is presented to us by the example of our Lord and is explained in brief by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

Maundy Thursday stretches out as it were to grasp Good Friday even as Good Friday reaches out and forward for the message of victory proclaimed on Easter Day!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon , Wednesday of Holy Week, 2002

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