Holy Thursday (evening) marks the beginning of the Paschal Triduum, marking the Passion of Christ and the Easter Celebration. While Disciples of Christ congregations, and indeed most who find themselves rooted in what has come to be called “Free Church” tradition, focus on the institution of the Lord’s Supper in their devotional and liturgical observances of the day, “Maundy” of “Maundy Thursday” has much more direct ties to the “mandatum” – the new commandment given by Christ to his disciples, to love one another as he has loved them, which he demonstrated in the washing of their feet (John’s gospel, which gives no “insitution of the Lord’s Supper” as noted in the synoptics, offers the account of washing feet in chapter 13 as the only such occasion in the gospels).
It is interesting to me, as an Appalachian Christian, to note that this tradition of washing feet in the gathered church is known among some of the Baptists as a sacrament (or ordinance on par with Baptism and Communion), and among Roman Catholics as a liturgical act of sacramental importance. For many of us who are a little bit of both – as I often feel that we Disciples are – it is overlooked entirely.
In many traditions, the bells and instruments of the church are silenced after the Eucharist ends on Thursday and are not sounded again until the proclamation of the Resurrection at Easter (or in the Easter Vigil). There are numerous musical works composed for the Triduum that are hard to overlook, and pastoral sensitivity, as well as church tradition, will have to guide the planners of liturgical and devotional life in the parish. The Tenebrae (Shadows) or the full reading of the Passion story may conclude the services for the day, and may include the stripping of liturgical adornments (not the cross) and/or a veiling of the cross or crucifix. A “barren landscape” is often what remains of the sanctuary, appropriate for those hours which lie ahead up to the Vigil of Easter; yet in some churches where multiple readings of the Passion may occur, this stripping often gets repeated, which looks a little disingenuous. Perhaps it might best be saved for the last act at the Good Friday eucharistic liturgy.
Click on Scripture
At Morning and Evening Prayer the Collect of Palm Sunday is used.
At Holy Communion this Collect is used.
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.
Lord Jesus Christ,
we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament
you have given us the memorial of your passion:
grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries
of your body and blood
that we may know within ourselves
and show forth in our lives
the fruit of your redemption,
for you are alive and reign, now and for ever.
God our Father,
your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end
and drank the cup prepared for him:
may we who share his table
watch with him through the night of suffering
and be faithful.