This Holy Week is the first that my wife and I have spent in an Anglican church. The experience of being apart of a liturgical church has been a great blessing so far. I thought that it would be interesting to take the next three days to describe the experiences of my first Easter Triduum in an Anglican church. Of course, my perspectives are certainly coming from someone who is experiencing it all for the first time. So keep in mind that I may not really know what I am talking about.
Today is Maundy Thursday which is the day that the church commemorates the Last Supper of Christ as described in the Gospels. Maundy Thursday is the start of the Easter Triduum, and is naturally a service where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated. I am going to take the rest of this post to describe the actual Maundy Thursday service that I attended at my church, St Matthew’s in Portland, Oregon.
The entire service is geared towards commemorating the Last Supper and that really comes through in both the musical choices and the scripture lessons. Our processional hymn was “Now, my tongue, the mystery telling” which is commonly attributed to Thomas Aquinas and sings of Christ keeping the passover and what we received from that last passover.
Our scripture lessons were Exodus 12:1-14, Psalms 116; 1-2, 12-19 (this was chanted), 1 Corinthains 11:23-26, and Matthew 26:17-30. All of these scripture passages helped to move us toward the celebration of the Eucharist.
I really enjoyed the sermon, which was taken from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Our priest, David Humphrey spoke about the situation at the church in Corinth. Corinth was a church where people were using the Lords Supper to highlight the differences between themselves. This runs counter to the ultimate unity that the Eucharist is supposed to confirm. He described the Eucharist as the ultimate leveling field in that we all come together and share what we have in common, and that commonality is our need for Christ. Our use of a common cup is to portray this unity better. Another interesting point in this sermon was that Christ shared the passover supper while his betrayal was underway. Through this he showed his ultimate love and forgiveness. The idea of sharing a sacred meal with someone who is planning your death is hard to imagine. We really have such a gracious savior!
Later the alter was prepared for the administration of the Communion sacrament. After we all had received we said this prayer:
“Heavenly Father, we thank you that in this sacrament we have been given the memorial of the passion of your Son Jesus Christ: Grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries of his body and blood, that we may know within ourselves and show forth in our lives the fruits of his redemption, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”
We then sang the Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” as preparation was being made for the stripping of the altar. It was sobering to watch the pure white Alter cloth and other liturgical vestments being stripped away. After all of the cloth was removed from the alter and the cross, both were covered over with a deep black cloth. This is to signify the dark and terrible time that is to come for our Lord.
While the congregation silently left the building I could not help but think about the sorrow and pain our Lord must have been going through on that night long ago. We certainly do not deserve the gift that he gave us through his suffering.
Our Maundy Thursday service has left me hanging. The story is not yet over and it is stopped at a very intense part. I know what is coming next but I still cannot help but be somber about it. At least I know that it ends well.