What is Maundy Thursday Other Than Communion and Feet Washing?
We hear this all the time, come to worship, or come to God being expectant or with an expectant heart, but what should we be expecting, and what exactly is Maundy Thursday? For several years now this week has been a time of the year I look forward to all throughout the year. Holy Week, and Maundy Thursday in particular, is observed in many different ways around the world, but it's a unique night for our Cornerstone family. Personally, I do prepare for the night in advance. I bring at least one Moleskine and a pen or pencil, expecting God to be there with me as I go through the night. The last few years I have written names of people I pray for while I'm in the room along with areas of my life I want to give back to the Lord.
I just love dedicated times of Christian meditation (or reflection) since they are so few and far between for our world today. Christian meditation is the counter opposite of what we do in our culture today, so it almost makes us uncomfortable at this point. Both Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 among many others, tells us to meditate on the scriptures day and night, so one night out of the year on Maundy Thursday is a great launching point for the rest of the year.
What is Maundy Thursday?
Maundy Thursday is of course the day before Good Friday, which is the day Jesus was crucified on the cross. It is also called "Holy Thursday", which is part of the greater week called "Holy Week" or Passion Week. The date changes according to the schedule of Easter, which changes each year. Maundy Thursday is the date that Jesus celebrated the passover, which became known as the last supper, and instituted what we know as communion. The two main events if you will that occur on Maundy Thursday are washing of feet and communion. The washing of feet was done by Jesus after supper was over (John 13:3-17) to give his disciples an example of humility and to show them a great act of love, providing all of us with an example of how we should treat others.
Scholars agree that the English word Maundy comes from mandé, from the Latin mandatum, or "command". The first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the John 13:34 where Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.
How Will We Observe Maundy Thursday
In our church specifically, Maundy Thursday is a time period from 8pm to 8am set aside as a time of meditation and reflection. Much in the same way Jesus prayed in Gethsemane on that Thursday night as described in Matthew 26:36-46 before Jesus' arrest and crucifixion. Matthew 26:36-46 is part of a larger story of course, but a few sections earlier we see that Jesus celebrates the passover with his disciples and then institutes The Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:17-25 and Matthew 26:26-29 respectively).
Because the bible doesn't mandate or command (or deny) the observation of Maundy Thursday specifically, observing this night is something that some churches do and some don't. Before we came to Auburn I don't really remember being in a church that observed Maundy Thursday night into Good Friday quite like this, but it is an experience I would hope everyone could go through.
In a world increasingly busy and full of distractions how can we ever stand still long enough to just be an awe of God and his brilliance. Maundy Thursday is that night, at least for our church. Each year I hope to pull a little more momentum from that night into the remainder of the year, trying to remember God also finds us in our silent meditation of his word.