Holy Week Maundy Thursday The Last Supper 2011

                                                       Mass readings for today are here

                                                       My reflection for last year is here

                                      Fine Reflection from the Singapore Jesuits here

The celebration Maundy Thursday – is from the Latin term “Mandatum” “Do this!”

                    ( But see the latest news at the bottom - we may be a day early!)

Jesus gave his disciples then and gives us all today three mandatums or commands :

                                           Receive the Eucharist- 
                      the Body and Blood of Christ;  

                                                     Wash each other's feet

Remember our calling as baptized Christians.

To take, bless, break, and share the meal in equal  fellowship and sustenance, as we’ve been fed – we are to feed others –  manna in the wilderness for all.  

To wash each others’ feet – a pattern of sacramental caring and reverence : a manner of servant living as shown and commanded by Jesus. 
We are also given the mandate we often overlook on Maundy Thursday where we are called to celebrate – Tonight  we have a tremendous gift that Jesus instituted to us for all time : by taking His body and blood we are all part of the priesthood of God. 

We are called by our baptism and mandated to be like Jesus, each and everyone of us  -  man, woman, child, adult, rich, poor, highly educated or not, weak or strong, clergy or laity  – each of us is called to a royal priesthood! 

I have chosen two passages below that in very different ways attempt to get to the heart of what it means for us to approach the mystery of the Eucharist.
The first is by Carlo Caretto and the second by Ron Rolheiser.

Carlo Carretto was a leader in Italian "Catholic Action" and served as National President of Catholic Youth from 1946 to 1952. At the age of forty-four he heard the call of God to go into the desert. There he joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld.

"The great joy of the Saharan novitiate is the solitude, and the joy of solitude - silence, true silence, which penetrates everywhere and invades one's whole being, speaking to the soul with wonderful new strength unknown to those to whom this silence means nothing.

Here, living in perpetual silence, one learns to distinguish its different shades: silence of the church, silence in one's cell, silence of work, interior silence, silence of the soul, God's silence.

To learn to live these silences, the novice-master lets us go away for a few days' "desert."

A hamper of bread, a few dates, some water, the Bible. A day's march: a cave.

Chapelle de la Nativitie, Cordes -sur-Ciel, France

A priest celebrates Mass: then goes away, leaving in the cave on an altar of stones, the Eucharist. Thus, for a week one remains alone with the Eucharist exposed day and night. 

Silence in the desert, silence in the cave, silence in the Eucharist. 

No prayer is so difficult as the adoration of the Eucharist. One's whole natural strength rebels against it.

One would prefer to carry stones in the sun. The senses, memory, imagination, all are repressed. Faith alone triumphs, and faith is hard, dark, stark.

To place oneself before what seems to be bread and to say, "Christ is there living and true," is pure faith.

But nothing is more nourishing than pure faith, and prayer in faith is real prayer.

"There's no pleasure in adoring the Eucharist," one novice used to say to me. But it is precisely this renunciation of all desire to satisfy the senses that makes prayer strong and real. 

One meets God beyond the senses, beyond the imagination, beyond nature.

This is crucial: as long as we pray only when and how we want to, our life of prayer is bound to be unreal. It will run in fits and starts. The slightest upset - even a toothache - will be enough to destroy the whole edifice of our prayer life.

"You must strip your prayers," the novice master told me. You must simplify, de-intellectualize. 

Image above by British artist and sculptor Nick Mynheer from here

Put yourself in front of Jesus as a poor man: not with any big ideas, but with living faith. 
Remain motionless in an act of love before the Father. 

Don't try to reach God with your understanding; that is impossible. Reach him in love; that is possible.

The struggle is not easy, because nature will try to get back her own, get her dose of enjoyment; but union with Christ Crucified is something quite different.

After some hours - or some days - of this exercise, the body relaxes. The will refuses to let it have its own way; it gives up the struggle. It becomes passive. 

The senses go to sleep. Or rather, as St. John of the Cross says, the night of senses is beginning. Then prayer becomes something serious, even if it is painful and dry. So serious that one can no longer do without it. The soul begins to share the redemptive work of Jesus."

Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells this story:

“A friend of mine, an alcoholic in recovery, likes to explain the dynamics of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in this way: ‘It’s funny, the meetings are always the same – the exact same things get done or said over and over again. 

Everything is pretty predictable; everyone, except those who are there for the first time, knows what will be said. And we’re not there to show our best side to each other. 

I don’t go to AA meetings to share my talents, or to be a nice guy. No, I go because, if I don’t go, I know, and know for sure, that I will start drinking again and eventually destroy myself. It’s that simple. I go there to stay alive!’”

Fr. Ron goes on to say: “in a curious, but accurate way, that can also be a description of the Eucharist . 
Among many other reasons, we go to Eucharist, we wash each other’s feet, we serve and love as Jesus did, to “stay alive” – truly alive! 

In this way we can only truly be free."

Nick Mynheer

I pray that in the gift of life we receive from Jesus in the Eucharist this coming Holy Week we may come to experience freedom so we can truly become eucharistic people.

Below : A prayer by Michael Heunig 

God help us to change. To change ourselves and to
change our world. To know the need for it. To deal
with the pain of it. To feel the joy of it. To undertake
the journey without understanding the destination.
The art of gentle revolution.


Some beautiful music and images for reflection:

                    The Last Supper : By Mercy We Come To Your Table

                                                 This lovely song by Leeland is called 

 Carried To The Table

                                                               I Am The Bread of Life

                                                                 The Servant Song
 Love this but alternating sister and brother in the verses would make it even better!

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