Maundy Thursday is the day in the church’s calendar that really gets to me.
I think it is the day that leads me into the acceptance of that strangest and most mystical of doctrines: the (hypostatic) doctrine that Jesus was simultaneously fully human and fully divine. It is the day that, above all others, makes me want to believe. Maundy Thursday is the day that compels me to seek union with Christ and to own the word Christian. Maundy Thursday is the day when presiding at the Eucharist takes on an entire new meaning.
Yes, I know that everything that Jesus has said and done up and until this point points towards his divinity, but, for me, it is the events of Maundy Thursday that reveal the fullness of the hypostatic union. Put colloquially Maundy Thursday gets to me.
On Good Friday the words of utter, mind shattering, compassion spoken from the cross, ‘Father forgive,’ and ‘women here is your son,’ follow on from, and are the supernatural consequence of, the Maundy Thursday revelation.
On Maundy Thursday Jesus gives the apostles ‘a new commandment;’ the commandment ‘to love on another as I have loved you.’ On Good Friday Jesus shows us what such love looks like, from the cross. The cross is the place of completion, the place where the meaning of the new commandment is finally, and for all time, revealed.
This notion of completeness is important. Presiding at the Good Friday Eucharist from a bare altar, stripped of all finery, with the reserved sacrament from ‘the day before he died,’ ensures that the words ‘do this in remembrance of me,’ become a lived reality.
So what is it about Maundy Thursday that bursts through all my barriers rendering my faith experiential, and known? Well, put simply, it’s the words and actions of Jesus, the Messiah.
I find it simply staggering that knowing what is to befall him Jesus takes the time to feed his apostles, to wash their feet, to give them one last tutorial in the art of divine love. It is through these simple acts that the divinity and humanity of Christ is revealed as coexisting in perfect (hypostatic) union.
I know that as a mere human being I could never face such a cruel end by continuing to give of my very self. I know that as a mere human being I could never complete the work of Maundy Thursday on Good Friday by asking for forgiveness for those who ‘know not what they are doing,’ (Luke 23, 34). It is the words and actions of Jesus on Maundy Thursday and into Good Friday above all else that convince me that Jesus truly is the ‘Son of God.’
Maundy Thursday is the day that penetrates my very soul.