The name Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin translation of words that Christ speaks
on this day in Holy Week: “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos”
“A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you”
So much happens on this day. Jesus knows that his hour has come, and the events which take place in the Temple now give way to a moving into the inner space of the Coenaculum, where the first community around the Christ will celebrate the Passover together.
The tone is set for a new kind of Passover, when the Lord washes the feet of his disciples before the meal, and tells them, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Then he tells them that one of them will betray him, and they begin the Passover meal. It is during the meal that Christ tells Judas to do what he is to do quickly. And Judas goes out, against all tradition—for all remain inside while the Destroying Angel of the Passover is in the land—so it reads: it is night.
It is then, following a revelation that the Son of Man will now be revealed and that he must leave them, that he gives his greatest word: Love one another as I have loved you.
It is from this love that the Last Supper is given to them—and us—as the seed for uniting with him and with the impulse to love that streams from his being into the far future.
It can be puzzling to us that the gospel reading in The Christian Community on this day is not all or even anything that takes place on Thursday, but rather the beginning of the events around his crucifixion (Luke 23: 13-32). What is poured into the cup is not only pure love, but also betrayal, trial, condemnation. How can we bear it? The final events that lead now to Golgotha will be spread before our souls over these three days: Thursday, Friday, Saturday—before we are invited to celebrate his triumph over death on Sunday. This greatest mystery of death is the heart of what is ours to come to understand in this time.
Wrongful death is everywhere in our time. Acts of violence and terror rip into our days at an alarming frequency—whether from individuals acting out of personal reasons, or those gathered around ideological or political causes. From one perspective, it simply does not matter what the reason. The Destroying Angel is in the land and in our hearts. Suffering abounds, and people are crossing the threshold in new communities that seem through our eyes to be random. Perhaps they are not.
But what can we do? What is the relationship between the cup that we raise together here in this hour, in this somewhat idyllic setting, far from most of the terror of the world and all that happens among our fellow human beings? Can we truly include all those who die in our prayers here?
In the garden of Gethsemane on this night, Christ falls to the ground and prays: “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” When it comes to the overwhelming amount of suffering in the world today, we would like this cup also to pass form us. But we are invited to pray with Christ when we wrestle to understand just how to include everyone in our heart and when we pray, “Our Father in the heavens…”
Whose cup is the Grail? Who shall drink from it? And for whom do we raise this cup? The Destroying Angel is in the land. Let us also bring a new human being forth in ourselves to meet this Angel with love.