29 March 2018

Reflections in Holy Week 2018 (4),
Maundy Thursday, Castletown Church

Christ washes the feet of the Disciples … a fresco on a pillar in a church in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Maundy Thursday, 29 March 2018,

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 in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Throughout this week, as we journey together through Holy Week, we have had services each evening in this group of parishes. We began in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, on Monday [26 March 2018], moving on to Saint Brendan’s, Tarbert, on Tuesday [27 March], and Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, yesterday [28 March].

Earlier this morning [29 March], I was at the Chrism Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, 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, and tomorrow we mark Good Friday prayerfully and appropriately in Saint Mary’s, Askeaton, in the three hours from 12 noon to 3 p.m.

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

During Holy Week, we have a series of readings from Saint John’s Gospel, in which Jesus has a very different set of encounters or exchanges each evening.

This evening, the Water for Washing the Disciples feet continues a theme we find throughout Saint John’s Gospel:

● The waters of the River Jordan, at the Baptism of Christ (see John 1: 19-34);

● The water that is turned into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2: 1-11);

● The Water of Life that the Samaritan Woman asks for at Jacob’s well in Sychar (John 4: 5-42);

● The water of the pool in Jerusalem where the paralysed man is healed after 38 years (John 5: 1-18);

● The water of the Sea of Galilee by which the 5,000 are fed (John 6: 1-14);

● The water by Capernaum where Jesus calms the storm (John 6: 16-21);

● The Rivers of Living Water (John 7: 37-39);

● The healing waters of the Pool of Siloam (John 9: 1-12);

● The water Christ cries out for on the Cross when he says: ‘I am thirsty’ (John 19: 28);

● The water that mingles with the blood from Christ’s side when it is pierced after his death (John 19: 32-35);

● The waters of the Sea of Tiberias, where the Risen Christ appears for a third time, after daybreak, and from which the disciples haul in 153 fish (John 21: 1-14).

Why then, in Saint John’s Gospel, does Pilate not wash his hands when he denies all responsibility on his part for the events that are to unfold that Good Friday (see John 18: 38)?

The Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) is best known for his posthumous novel The Master and Margarita, a masterpiece of the 20th century. Here Bulgakov portrays Pilate as a man who is ruthless, yet complex in his humanity. When Pilate meets Christ, he is reluctant but resigned and passively hands him over of him to those who wanted to kill him.

In this novel, Pilate exemplifies the statement ‘Cowardice is the worst of vices,’ and so he serves as a model of all the people who have washed their hands by silently or actively taking part in the Stalin’s crimes.

The actor Richard Boone plays a calm and stern, though, slightly guilt-ridden Pilate in the 1953 film The Robe (1953). There is an interesting touch when Pilate asks again for water to wash his hands, forgetting he has already washed those hands at the conclusion of the trial of Jesus.

When do we forget that we are complicit in the sufferings of others, and when do we deny we are complicit in the sufferings of others?

As Christ washes the feet of his disciples this evening, he calls us out from our complacency and our cosy forgetfulness, and challenges us once again to renew the promises made in the waters of our Baptism, to come again with forgiveness to living and healing waters, to dine and drink with him at the banquet, to have him calm the waters in the storms in our lives, the accept the miracle, to be cleansed by the waters from his side, to walk with him afresh and the join the Disciples in the new promises of the Resurrection.

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 passageway to the chapter house in Lichfield Cathedral has a unique example of a mediaeval pedilavium where feet are washed on Maundy Thursday. There is an open arcade of double pillars with either heads or foliage between the arches; along the base is a stone seat with red cushions (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect of the Day (Maundy Thursday):

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.

The Blessing:

Christ draw you to himself
and grant that you find in his cross a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven:


431, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour
432, Love is his word, love is his way
515, A new commandment I give unto you

(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, 20 March 2018.

The Last Supper … a sculpture that was once in Quonian’s Lane, Lichfield, but is missing for some years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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