Maundy Thursday (Year A)

See Holy Week - a Singing the Faith introduction

A new commandment I give unto you:
that you love one another as I have loved you,
that you love one another as I have loved you.
By this the world shall know that you are my disciples,
if you have love one for another.
By this the world shall know that you are my disciples,
if you have love one for another.

(StF 242)

From St Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Corinth and from the book of Exodus, we have two stories about the institution of a meal: Christian Holy Communion (Eucharist) and the Jewish Passover Feast. In both cases, the meal serves as an act of remembrance – reminding us how we have been delivered from an old life and offered a new way of being. The readings for Maundy Thursday help us to see Holy Communion with fresh eyes – to re-vision our routine actions with the force of powerful memories and commands.

The gospel writer John (in a passage that overlaps with yesterday’s gospel reading) describes at length another action that is symbolic of God’s new way of being. Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet may remind us of Isaiah’s servant figure from readings earlier in the week, but here the act of a servant is a vivid reminder of God’s new commandment: to love one another as God has loved us. (It is this commandment that gives Maundy Thursday its name, from the Latin “mandatum”.)

As Kevin Nichols reminds us (StF 589), the love we are invited to take up, like the deliverance God offers to God’s people, is not dependent on our adequacy to the task. Instead, we pray God to

take all we start and spoil,
each hopeful dream,
the chances we have missed,
the graces we resist,
Lord, in your Eucharist,
take and redeem.

Exodus 12: 1-4 (5-10) 11-14
Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
John 13: 1-17, 31b-35

Suggested hymns

All the room was hushed and still (StF 266)
An Upper Room did our Lord prepare (StF 569)
Captain of Israel’s host, and guide (StF 459)
Dusty-footed, heavy-hearted (website only)
Food to pilgrims given (StF 584)
In bread, we bring you, Lord, our bodies' labour (StF 589)
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love (StF 249)
Listen, my people, here is my challenge (website only)
‘Look around you, can you see?’ (StF 525)
Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour (StF 596) esp. vv.4&5
Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us (StF 594)
Neither death, nor life, nor angels nor powers (StF 474)
O Watcher in the wilderness (StF 667)
Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory (StF 268)
We do not presume to come to this table (StF 601)
You showed us mercy when we were in darkness (StF 488)