Maundy Thursday Holy Communion and Vigil. After Holy Communion we gather in The Lady Chapel to meditate upon Gospel passages related to Jesus’ Last Supper and Vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane. We leave in silence with our thoughts.
Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, among other names) is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday.
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.
This service contains a subtle blend of elements; of love and cleansing, of the joy of communion with our Lord in the Eucharist and thanksgiving for his presence among his people, and of gathering gloom as the supper gives way to the Gethsemane agony and arrest. After communion, the High Altar is stripped and the choir sing Psalm 22, reminding us of the desolation and abandonment of the Cross. The altar will not be used again until Easter resurrection has been proclaimed. We then move to the candlelit Chapel where we hear the reading of the Gospel of our Lord’s Watch of Prayer, and our invitation to do so is by our Lord’s own words to his disciples: ‘Could you not watch with me one hour?’
After the reading of the first part of the Gospel of the Watch, members of the congregation are invited to either leave without ceremony, or to remain and keep the Watch. Those who leave, echo the first disciples’ abandonment of Jesus at his arrest.
The Watch of the Passion is kept in the Chapel. 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. We are reminded of his presence among us by both word and sacrament: the sacrament is taken to the Chapel and remains there as a continuing focus for our prayer and communion with our Lord in his agony; and at intervals the silence is broken by the reading of two further short extracts from the Gospel of the Watch, continuing the story of the Passion.
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 in thy Kingdom.
Orthodox troparion for Great and Holy Thursday