Maundy Thursday as a Habit
Historically, a Maundy Thursday celebration was a short, simple gathering of the church in worship, followed by an austere meal together. The evening commemorated Jesus’ last meal with His disciples before His trial and crucifixion.
In the Gospel of John, this meal with His disciples included a great deal of teaching, including the words of John 13.34 immediately after Judas departed: “a new commandment [mandatum in Latin] I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Jesus was recapping what He had taught earlier, and preparing them for His departure and their life together, in His absence.
As a celebration, Maundy Thursday helped to build into the ordinary year of a believer, a sacred rhythm in which the life of Christ would not be forgotten.
Brett McCracken writes in The Wisdom of God-Centered Rhythms in a Me-Centered Age:
“I … find that the annual rhythms of the church calendar provide a coherent ordering to time that we need in an unstructured age. Today, time tends to be ordered around whatever is currently trending in the news, whatever hashtag day it might be …, or whatever commercial ‘holiday’ it is where we are encouraged to buy stuff ...”
We are buffeted by competitions for our attention, money, energy, decisions, hopes, and just about everything else. Not only is it nearly impossible to walk in a straight line without darting here and there (physically and emotionally), it is nearly impossible to stop long enough to re-calibrate our hearts before proceeding again.
In high school during one summer, I worked at dad’s “office” which was a hangar full of helicopters. I remember the job included a lot of sweeping. One day a pilot and mechanic invited me to grab a small ladder and climb into a Hughes 500 (think, Magnum P.I.). We spent the afternoon flying in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains, landing every now and again in various meadows and shutting down the aircraft. This was done so the mechanic could use the ladder to make adjustments on the tips of the rotor blades. Afterwards, we would do it again. Fly, land, adjust … fly, land, adjust … over and over again.
How will awareness of a bad rhythm be discovered? If it isn’t discovered, will it ever be fixed? The world never stops feeding us its own rhythm, its own schematic diagram (see Rom. 12.2) of how we ought to operate.
Maundy Thursday, like the 52 days a year of corporate worship, helps us stop. When we stop, we are reminded of who we are in union with Christ and who we are in union with His other children. After we stop, and adjust, we fly again.
You can read more about Brett McCracken’s new book, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World, here (above is a quotation from the introduction).