Holy Thursday: Chapter 22 of Joan Chittister’s ‘The Liturgical Year’

4 04 2012

by Ian Walden

“Holy Thursday is, indeed, a study in mixed emotions.”

Today, we disparate disciples will enjoy Communion like no other – but by night’s end we’ll be scattered, each to our own fears. Today, we see the beginning of a new Eucharistic world – and hear the clank of soldiers’ boots on the garden path. Today, we get our feet washed, and see in Jesus’ servanthood a new vision of authority, one that will nourish and cultivate rather than dominate – only to have our beloved leader taken from us. Today, we are intimate with the recently-hailed King of God’s people – but still have little idea where he is going, why he is going there, or what he expects from us in his absence. Today, we get closer to Jesus than ever before – and realise how prone we are to betray or abandon him when he leads us toward any kind of danger.

This is, as Chittister insists, a threshold – both for Jesus and for us – between life and death, between community and life as they should be, and how they/we still are. It is hard to know how to feel. It is hard to truly rejoice and truly lament. (It’s a relief to admit this; I’ve always found it makes for an emotionally frantic week.)

This is also Jesus’ time to give injunctions; nice, clear ones. “Do this in remembrance of me.” “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” If ever there was a time for conversion, for a new kind of living, this is it. And since we’re not anywhere close to obeying these injunctions yet, it’s a time for pondering that gap, and for raising pleas to heaven that grace will enable us to change anew.

All of this is good reason, then, to end our Thursday services in silence – a silence that will last a further 48 hours. A fast for eyes and ears; a chance for hearts to ponder, to catch up. And boy is there a lot of catching up to do … Any ideas how this liturgical silence can be carried into Friday and Saturday for those of us not in monastic orders??


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