24 March 2016

A journey through Lent 2016
with Samuel Johnson (44)

The Last Supper … an image from Bridgeman’s workshop in Quonian’s Lane, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Maundy Thursday, and Lent and Holy Week are in their final days and we are reaching the climax of Lent. Later this morning, I plan to take part in the Maundy Thursday Community Eucharist in the Chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and at 11.30 in the Chrism Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, when the clergy of the diocese are invited to renew our ordination vows.

In Lichfield Cathedral, the clergy of the Diocese of Lichfield are renewing their ordination vows at the Diocesan Chrism Mass at 11 a.m. and said Evening Prayer at 5.30 p.m. includes the washing of feet and a candleit vigil until Midnight.

During Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on words from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

Despite his religious practices and faith, Johnson provides what seems an inadequate definition of Maundy Thursday in his Dictionary:

Maundy-Thursday, mawn'-de, or man'-de'- thurz'-de. s. Thursday before Good-Friday, when the king’s almoner distributes benefactions to the poor.

On Maundy Thursday, 13 April 1775, Johnson wrote:

Of the use of time, or my commendation of myself, I thought no more, but lost life in restless nights and broken days, till this week awakened by attention.

This year has passed with very little improvement, perhaps with diminution of knowledge. Much time I have not left; infirmities oppress me. But much remains to be done. I hope to rise at eight or sooner in the morning.

The Pedilavium in Lichfied Cathedral was probably used for the Maundy Thursday foot-washing ceremony (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)


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.


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.


Exodus 12: 1-4, [5-10] 11-14; Psalm 116: 1, 10-17; I Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-17, 31b-35.

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.


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.

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.

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