Thursday, April 1, 2010

A day of emotions, a theme of healing

The day was full of textures, colors, and many emotions. The theme of healing emerged throughout the day in prayers and images. For me, Wednesday of Holy Week began before dawn with Morning Prayer and the blunt Collect of the Day that speaks of graphically of betrayal and how Jesus gave his body "to be whipped and his face to be spit upon."

Startling words indeed to begin the day.

I worked on various projects until noon when I paused to preside at a healing Eucharist. A handful of people came; we recited the "Litany for Healing" that is in our supplemental prayer book Lesser Feasts and Fasts: "God the Holy Spirit, you make our bodies the temple of your presence."

The collect in the early morning, in a peculiar way, was connected to healing because it speaks of betrayal. Sometimes it is our bodies that betray us, and we become sick. At the healing service, I anointed people with holy oil, blessed by our bishop a year ago in Holy Week. We then stood around the altar and celebrated the Eucharist. One young woman who came was using a cane, and so she sat.

In the late afternoon, we held our regular Wednesday Evening Prayer in the chapel, and it was especially focused on children. The Rev. Janet Legro, our associate rector for youth, read a children's story about how Jesus was anointed with oil by Mary. Janet brought a little bottle of aromatic oil, and she put a dab on each child when they put their arm out.

After dinner, two of our young adult leaders led a "Stations of the Cross" mediation in the nave; there were 17 people who came. I had not attended a Stations of the Cross observance in some time. I found it moving and challenging. It ends with these words we imagine Jesus might have said:
I told you at the start my life was not complete until I crowned it by my death and resurrection.

Your way is not complete unless you crown it by your life.

Accept each moment as it comes to you, with faith and trust. All that happens has my mark upon it, that somewhere out of the darkness will come light.

We ended the evening with an instructed Eucharist in the chapel, led by The Rev. Henry Minich, a retired priest who helped draft our current prayer book in 1976. He was a font of knowledge and wisdom.

Today, Maundy Thursday, we enter the Great Three Days: The Easter Triduum. For me, Maundy Thursday will begin again before dawn in my private Morning Prayer, and then I plan to go to Culpeper for a gathering of the Diocese of Virginia clergy with our bishop, Shannon Johnston. He will recommit himself to his ordination vows, and then he will ask us to stand and renew our own ordination vows. I always find the renewal of vows not only powerful, but revealing of the path of my own calling. Bishop Shannon will then bless the holy oils for us to bring back to our parishes for anointing the sick and blessing the newly baptized.

The Stations of the Cross will be observed again this evening at 6:30 pm in the nave.

At 7:30 pm today we will gather at St. Paul's for our last Eucharist before Easter, and the traditional washing of feet by the clergy of our people. I hope you can join us.

Collect for Maundy Thursday
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he
suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood:
Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in
remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy
mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.
Liturgical notes: The word maundy comes from the middle English maunde, which means "commandment" or "mandate." The day commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus when he commands his followers to remember him in the breaking of bread and sharing in the cup of wine, and to be servants to each other and the world.

The washing of feet on Maundy Thursday is one of the most ancient and universal rites in the Christian Church. It is a reminder to us all of the humility necessary to us as ministers to each other. The ceremony has its origin in the Gospel according to John. Unique among the Gospels, John has no account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, including instead the account of the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus with the admonition, “do this for one another.”

Jesus was pointing to this act as a sign of our servant ministry to one another and the world. Tonight, we remind ourselves of that vocation through the washing of feet. The clergy wash the feet of those in the congregation who come forward. This shows the church’s regard for the spiritual gifts of all its members.

The service concludes with the stripping of the altar and a procession by the deacon to the altar in the chapel, where the reserved sacrament (a container of consecrated wafers), the outward and visible sign of the presence of Christ, will be placed. This altar is designated as the “Altar of Repose” and it is here that the sacrament will lie in state until it is distributed on Good Friday at the 5 pm service. You are invited to sit in silent prayer in the chapel until 11 pm this evening.

Art by Flor Larios.

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