Holy Week and Easter ~ Agape
An Agape Meal at Home (GG)
During these times of self or imposed isolation, we can remember that Jesus retreated to an Upper Room to share the Passover with his family, and broke bread and drank wine together according to a long-established tradition, adapting it to suit the time and the place. We have followed his example for two millennia. This is not a ‘lay celebration’ of the Eucharist, but is rather a communal meal, shared in faith and fellowship-love (agape) at which we specifically recall the Last Supper and do as Jesus did, that is bread together and share wine. There is no need to load great theological or ecclesiological significance onto it, other than to recognise that the event is cross-shaped – horizontal in that others are doing it too and vertical as in downwards through time back to the original event. Even alone, there is a communality to this meal as others are doing the same simultaneously with whom we are united in faith, hope and love.
We have done this sort of thing, combined with an authorised Eucharistic celebration in our Hall for many years. This year we cannot, but with memories of that, or the virtual fellowship we share and the sense of unity with past and future celebrations of communion, we can perhaps share a sense of present trouble inspired by future hope. This year especially, we re-member ourselves as a community of thanksgiving and love, and remember what Christ did for us in Jerusalem on Good Friday. We are the body of Christ, because we all share in remembrance and thanksgiving.
You will need to designate a time and table for this simple celebration. On Maundy Thursday I suggest 7.30pm (to enable the keeping of the Watch at 9pm if desired).
The meal can be two or three courses. Lamb would be fitting, but by no means necessary.
Bread should be on the table throughout and wine served with the meal (preferably red). There is no need to use a ‘common’ cup, especially under current circumstances. The ‘service’ is conducted around a table, seated throughout (except for reading the gospel and perhaps exchanging the peace).
Here is a simple format based on that to which we have become accustomed.
The services of worship from Maundy Thursday to Easter morning form part of a unified whole. The word Maundy is derived from the ancient ceremony of the washing of feet, from the first words of the traditional anthem ‘Mandatum novum do nobis’, ‘A new commandment I give you’, (John 13.34). The liturgy of the day commemorates the institution of the Lord’s Supper, his act of humble service in the washing of his disciples’ feet, and his lonely prayer and subsequent betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Watch of the Passion is kept later in the evening. The essence of the Watch is silence; a response to Christ’s invitation to his disciples to watch and pray with him. We attempt to identify with Christ in his loneliness and to share in his passion. At intervals the silence is broken by the reading of short extracts from the Gospel of the Watch, continuing the story of the Passion. This may be substituted by extracts from the Dorothy L Sayers plays, available on the church website.
Receive me today, O Son of God, as a partaker of thy Mystic Feast;
for I will not speak of the Mystery to thine enemies;
I will not kiss thee as did Judas;
but as the thief I will confess thee;
Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom.
Orthodox troparion for Great and Holy Thursday
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
The Prayers of Penitence
Our Lord Jesus Christ says: ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’ ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part in me.’ Let us confess to almighty God our sins against his love, and ask him to cleanse us.
Most merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I confess that I have sinned in thought, word and deed. I have not loved you with my whole heart, I have not loved my neighbours as myself. In your mercy, forgive what I have been, help me to amend what I am, and direct what I shall be; that I may do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you, my God. Amen.
Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent, has mercy upon us, pardons and deliver us from all our sins, confirms and strengthens us in all goodness, keep us in life eternal; through his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us pray.
God our Father, you have invited us to share in the supper which your Son gave to his Church to proclaim his death until he comes: may he nourish us by his presence, and unite us in his love; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Starter (if there is one)
Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.
Glory to you O Lord.
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
A version of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ music may be found here:
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.
“A guest,” I answer'd, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
The Main Course
Father on this night when you Son Jesus was betrayed, he washed his disciples’ feet. We commit ourselves to follow his example of love and service.
Lord hear us, and humble us.
On this night, he prayed that his disciples might be one. We pray for the unity of your Church throughout the world. For her leaders, congregations and all whom we serve.
Lord hear us, and humble us.
On this night he prayed for all who were yet to believe through the message of salvation he came to bring. We pray for the mission of the church, in this parish, in this Diocese, among this nation and all over the world.
Lord hear us, and humble us.
On this night he commanded his disciples to love one another, but suffered rejection himself. We pray for those who are rejected and despised in society, for those who are unloved, and for all who need comfort or healing at this time…
Lord hear us, and fill us with your love.
On this night that turned to violence, pain and sorrow, we pray for all who suffere in mind, body or spirit, and we give thanks for all those working in the NHS and other medical organisations to keep us safe and healthy.
Lord hear us and hela us and protect all who are in danger.
On this night we pray for the peace that only Jesus can give, the peace that the world cannot give. We pray for the healing of the nations, and the reconciliation of peoples and communities where there is war, terror or injustice.
Lord hear us, and give us your peace.
Jesus says: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’
May the peace of the Lord be always with us.
A sign of peace may be exchanged.
The Final Course
Commemoration of the First Christian Passover
The Lord is with us.
His Spirit is with us.
We lift up our hearts to the Lord.
We give thanks to the Lord our God,
for it is meet and right to do so.
1 Corinthians 11. 23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
In breaking bread together we remember that we are the Body of Christ, united in faith, hope and love.
Silence is kept as some bread and wine are consumed.
As our Saviour taught us, so we pray
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
May the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world have mercy upon us and give us his peace. Amen.
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
The Gospel of the Watch may be kept for an hour.