7pm Foot Washing, Choral Holy Communion & Stripping of the Altar
We meet to commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper Jesus held with his chosen disciples. The Holy Communion is preceded by the ceremony of Foot Washing, as twelve members of the congregation come forward to have their feet washed. “Maundy” is an old English form of the Latin word “mandatum”, which means “commandment”. The name “Maundy Thursday” recollects the words of Jesus just after he had washed the feet of his apostles: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another.” Christian charity must first manifest itself within the community of the Church which is the Body of Christ, and as if that were not difficult enough, it must overflow in service to a world which “God so loved”.
Maundy Thursday is dominated by the Lord’s Supper, which is the most joyous and festive of the entire year, even in the midst of Holy Week and the beginning of the Triduum.
What happened that night in the upper room points back to what happened to the Chosen People and points forward to what will happen to Christ. Just as a people was ‘taken’ by God, ‘blessed’ as his Chosen People, ‘broken’ in exile, war and captivity, so was Jesus ‘given’ as Lord and Saviour to the world. The words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper – the taking, giving thanks (or blessing), breaking, and giving – also spell out what happens to all who believe in him, as we allow God’s will to be worked out in our lives. This is the mystery of our faith.
After we receive Holy Communion, the celebrant takes the remaining consecrated bread and wine to the Altar of Repose that has been prepared at the back of the church. Following the final hymn, the Altar is stripped and the church laid bare. We remember the abandonment of Our Lord. A sharp noise reminds us of the moment of Christ’s betrayal. After a few moments, the account of the Agony in the Garden is read from St. Matthew’s Gospel. The prayer vigil begins immediately.
9 pm – 7:30 am All-Night Vigil
Members of the congregation are encouraged to remain in the bare main body of the church and pray in silence before they leave. Others may wish to pray before the Altar of Repose, as an aid to loving contemplation of Our Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The door of the church facing the hall will remain open throughout the night and until the 8 am Holy Communion, so that you may come for prayer and devotion at any time on this holy night.
We pray, by God’s special grace and favour, that we may know the joy of watching and praying with Our Lord Jesus Christ. He submitted his will entirely in obedience to his Father. As he came to know his freedom in giving his life for others, so may we come to the church this evening and pray for the salvation of all people, resolving to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice on their behalf. Our sacrifice can be nothing more (or less) than an offering of thanksgiving for the redeeming love he has shown for us in his passion and death. We can offer only the same love with which he embraces us. The Vigil concludes with Morning Prayer and the Litany at 7:30am.