Maundy Thursday 2017

Tonight we begin the sacred paschal Triduum, the three days that are liturgically one day, when we commemorate the saving passion, death and resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Moment by moment we shall trace the events of these three days, beginning tonight with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at which we shall recall Christ’s institution of the holy Eucharist and his commandment to love one another as demonstrated by the washing of feet. Connected with this great liturgy of the whole Church are other, more particular liturgies. For our priests there is the Chrism Mass, at which the holy oils are blessed and distributed and the priests’ commitment is reaffirmed. Here in the monastery another domestic liturgy has been unfolding. Last night we began reading the Last Discourse before Compline. A single voice proclaims into the dusk those words of Jesus at the Last Supper which will end with his going to Gethsemane. It is poignant and painful and sets the tone for what is to follow.

Early this morning I went into the kitchen and baked some unleavened bread. It is not for use in the Mass. Instead, it will accompany our meals between now and Easter morning. It is the bread of affliction, the bread of suffering, a reminder of the reality of sin and redemption — something we taste, chew over, absorb into ourselves. Today it has a wonderful freshness and zest about it and will accompany our recalling of the Last Supper with joy and gladness. Tomorrow, when we fast the great fast of Good Friday, it will be stale, crumbly, eaten without relish. By Holy Saturday it will be rock hard, with all the bitterness of loss and death. It is a small way of making the huge events of the paschal Triduum approachable, knitted to the substance of our lives in a direct, uncomplicated way.

I often describe monasticism as doing theology on one’s knees. I think it could, with equal truth, be called doing theology in the kitchen. May your paschal Triduum be blessed.

Note: There are many previous posts about Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and other days of the Triduum. Please use the search box in the sidebar if interested.

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