A new command was given on Maundy Thursday – a mandate – mandatum – hence the name. And in honor of “loving one another,” priests wash parishioners’ feet, kings and queens give coins, and altars are stripped ready to remember that giving of it all.
The story below comes from my Bible gift book: Easter, Creation to Salvation in 100 words a day. And if you want to know what happens next (the end of the world perhaps), look for Revelation, from Easter to Pentecost in 100 words a day. Enjoy.
(And if you want a writing prompt, write about the wonder of the season – Easter, spring, whatever season this means to you.)
The streets were quiet. Night had fallen, everyone sleeping or praying, except for them.
“Strange about the bread,” said James, still tasting forbidden matzos eaten after lamb.
“And the blessing”—“This is my body,” the master had said, reminding them of something they were too full, or too tired to remember.
They stopped at a garden, sat on rocks, lay on grass, their bodies weary with food. And they barely noticed when Jesus left to pray with Peter, James and John.
Matthew looked up. “Huh? Where’d they go?” then, “Wonder what happened to Judas.”
Voices whispered. Armor jangled. Footsteps approached.
Mark 14:22 “…Take, eat: this is my body.”
After they’d eaten the Passover meal, Jesus blessed and broke another matzo. He prayed over the third cup of wine—cup of redemption, blood of the lamb—and the feast drew to its end.
Maundy Thursday evening begins a three-day celebration of Easter: Maundy pennies to the poor; priests washing the people’s feet. But it’s communion that matters most—bread and wine shared in remembrance of Him. We file out from church, leaving the light shining in a tiny garden—shrubs and flowers, a place of Easter prayer.
And through the night, people visit, to watch and pray one hour.
It didn’t seem so long ago she carried her baby to the Temple, and an old man prophesied, “A sword will piece your heart.”
She hadn’t known what sort of sword. There were all the little swords of childhood, watching and caring for the boy, losing and finding him. There was the sword of his leaving home, and the day he addressed the crowds: “These are my mother and brothers,” as if she hadn’t left everything to follow him too.
This sword was a soldier’s spear, piercing her dead son’s heart.
A mother shouldn’t have to watch her baby die.
John 1:29 “…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Good Friday’s service is the long one. We stand and kneel and sit on cue, and pray for all times and all peoples.
The priest holds up the crucifix—“Behold the wood of the cross.” And all other symbols stay hid under their purple cloths—statues in mourning. The congregation marches forwards to bestow our reverent kisses, quickly wiped.
It must look strange—we fools for Christ; irrational kisses in remembrance of God’s salvation. I touch my lips to plastic, and my heart touches mystery.
Returning home we celebrate with hot cross buns, sweetness and spice, pleasure and pain together.
“They tell me Judas has killed himself. I doubt I could even do that right.
“Remember me, Jesus? I’m the one that betrayed you; told them I never even knew you. I stood there, and I saw you look at me.
“Remember me? I’m the one that couldn’t walk on water after all; can’t even walk right on land. You said you’d build your church on me, called me a rock. Some rock. Some church.
“Remember me, Jesus? And you tell me to remember you.
“I remember seeing you dead and buried, so tell me, now what do I do?”
John 15:5 “I am the vine, ye are the branches…”
We left the church in silence on Good Friday, the altar bare—no candles, no flowers, no music, joyful or sad. On Saturday evening, we’ll meet together in the parking lot, beside the Paschal fire, the air filled with excitement and smoke, shouting “Alleluia” instead of “Crucify.” On Holy Saturday evening we’ll all stand forgiven, and the grave lie empty.
New light, new life, new hope tonight. My brother, the priest, sings “Lumen Christi” and we answer “Deo Gratias”—light of Christ; thanks be to God. Beautiful music, beautiful prayers, and beautiful hope.
This night, our Savior is risen.
“King of the Jews.”
“So they say.”
“D’you think he’ll stay dead?”
The older man laughed. He’d been a soldier long enough to know, the dead don’t walk. “We killed him son.” And if they could keep the body guarded, maybe peace would return to the violent province.
They sat around the fire, telling war stories to flames, cursing the land, scorning people who might be foolish enough to try to steal a corpse.
Then they saw what they could not see, and heard what they could not hear. In the morning, the grave stood empty; the dead had walked.
John 11:25 “…I am the resurrection, and the life…”
Jesus walked the earth again for forty days. His disciples saw Him. Huge crowds ate and talked with Him. And those who chronicled events wrote their tales, while eye-witnesses still lived to disagree. Like newspaper reporters today, each stressed his own version. But together they tell one story, one the authorities couldn’t suppress, though it would have been so easy to disprove—if there’d only been a body.
After the forty days, Jesus disappeared. After fifty, at the Jewish Pentecost, the Holy Spirit turned frightened fishermen into Fishers of Men. And two thousand years later Christians still follow the carpenter.