13 April 2017

Reflections in Holy Week 2017 (4),
Maundy Thursday, Castletown Church

An icon of the Last Supper, known in Orthodoxy as the Mystical Supper (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Maundy Thursday, 13 April 2017

8 p.m., The Maundy Eucharist, with Washing of Feet.

Castletown Church, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick.

Readings: Exodus 12: 1-4 (5-10), Psalm 116: 1, 10-17; I Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-17, 31b-35.

May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Throughout this week, as we journey together through Holy Week, we continue the gradual build-up from Palm Sunday, with services each evening in this group of parishes. We began in Saint Mary’s, Askeaton, on Monday [10 April 2017], moving on to Saint Brendan’s, Tarbert, on Tuesday [11 April], and Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, yesterday [12 April].

Earlier this morning, I was at the Chrism Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, when the bishop and the priests of this diocese together renewed our ordination vows.

This evening, we are here in Castletown for the Maundy Eucharist [13 April 2017], and tomorrow we mark Good Friday prayerfully and appropriately in Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Rathkeale at noon and in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton in the evening.

All this is to prepare us to celebrate the Resurrection, on Easter Eve here in Castletown and on Easter Morning in Tarbert, Askeaton and Rathkeale.

Among Anglicans, Maundy Thursday is the normal name for this day, and it is used in the Book of Common Prayer. Among Roman Catholics, today is usually known as Holy Thursday; in the Orthodox Church, today is Great and Holy Thursday.

In all traditions, this day is associated with the Last Supper. This is the day before the Crucifixion, and on this day Christ had his last meal with his disciples. As the Gospel according to Saint Matthew tells us:

‘While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.’ (Matthew 26: 26-29).

The liturgical colours change to white for this evening’s Maundy Eucharist, which includes the Washing of Feet.

The name Maundy comes through Middle English and the Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase Jesus uses in our Gospel reading this evening to explain to his disciples why he is washing their feet: ‘Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos’ (‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’ (John 13: 34).

Until the reign of James II, the monarch washed the feet of poor people on Maundy Thursday. These days, the Maundy Thursday celebrations in the United Kingdom involve the monarch giving alms in the form of ‘Maundy Money’ in red and white purses to selected senior citizens – one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign’s age. This year, the Maundy Ceremony took place in Leicester Cathedral.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates Christ’s Last Supper with the Twelve, along with the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the new commandment to love one another. This is the only Mass on this day, and inaugurates the period of the three days, the Easter Triduum, including Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day.

All the bells of the church, including the altar bells, may be rung during the Gloria, but the bells and the organ then fall silent until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. Later, the main altar is stripped bare and crosses are removed from the church or are veiled.

In the Orthodox Church, the primary service today is Vespers, and there are three Old Testament readings.

With the first reading, Exodus 19: 10-19, God’s descent from Mount Sinai to his people on the morning of the third day is interpreted as an image of the Resurrection on the third day or of Christ coming to us in the Eucharist.

In the second reading, Job 38: 1-23, 42: 1-5, Job reflects on his conversation with God, and questions himself and replies with these words: ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know’ (Job 42: 3). These great and wonderful things are fulfilled in the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood.

The third reading, Isaiah 50: 4-11, is the beginning of the prophecies on the suffering servant of God: ‘Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the Lord and relies upon his God?’ (Isaiah 50: 10).

This evening, as we accept the new commandment we are given by the suffering servant, to love one another, we prepare for tomorrow, Good Friday, when God in Christ takes on all the consequences of emptying himself completely because of his love for us.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Collect of the Day:

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 and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Almighty God,
at the Last Supper your Son Jesus Christ
washed the disciples’ feet
and commanded them to love one another.
Give us humility and obedience to be servants of others
as he was the servant of all;
who gave up his life and died for us,
yet is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
in this wonderful sacrament
you have given us a memorial of your passion.
Grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries
of your body and blood
that we may know within ourselves
the fruits of your redemption,
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


O God,
your Son Jesus Christ has left us this meal of bread and wine
in which we share his body and his blood.
May we who celebrate this sign of his great love
show in our lives the fruits of his redemption;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This Holy Week Reflection was prepared for the Eucharist in Castletown Church, Pallaskenry, on Maundy Thursday, 13 April 2017.

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