While we are not currently able to gather together with our entire congregation to celebrate Maundy Thursday, we are mindful of the fact the Last Supper, which we commemorate today, was first observed with Jesus and a small group of friends. For those who desire to share a meal on Maundy Thursday to commemorate Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, the following order may be observed. It may be necessary to adjust the content to fit one’s circumstances. No musical selections are named here, but this may be interspersed with appropriate songs, if they are known to those gathered.
The celebration of festal meals is not appropriate during Holy Week. In Christian tradition such festivities take place only after the Lenten fast has been completed by the celebration of the Great Vigil—which is the Passover Feast of Christians. A meatless meal is to be preferred. The setting should be austere and the foods sparse and simple. Appropriate foods include soup, cheese, olives, dried fruit, bread, and wine.
Texts may be read by a designated leader, or by a variety of participants.
The following words are read:
This is the night that Christ the Son of Man gathered with his disciples in the upper room.
This is the night that Christ our Lord and Master took a towel and washed the disciples’ feet, calling us to love one another as he has loved us.
This is the night that Christ our God gave us the holy feast, that we who eat the bread and drink the cup may proclaim his perfect sacrifice.
This is the night that Christ the Lamb of God gave himself into the hands of those who would slay him.
The Preparation of the Table
Mark 14:12-17 is read:
“And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening, he came with the twelve.”
Two designated people set the table for the meal, and then all take their seats.
John 13:1-12a is read:
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.'”
The Foot-washing follows, using a pitcher of warm water, a basin, and a towel already laid out for this purpose. If parents and children are celebrating together, it is particularly appropriate that a parent perform the foot-washing, or that both parents perform it together.
If it is desired to introduce the ceremony by a brief address, the following may be used:
Fellow servants of our Lord Jesus Christ: On the night before his death, Jesus set an example for his disciples by washing their feet, an act of humble service. He taught that strength and growth in the life of the kingdom of God come not by world power and authority, but by such lowly service. Therefore I invite you who share in the royal priesthood of Christ to recall whose servants we are by following the example of our Master. Come now remembering his admonition that what will be done for you is also to be done by you to others. Engrave on your hearts and mirror in your actions Jesus words: “A servant is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
During or following the foot-washing, the following words may be said, or some suitable song may be sung:
Jesus said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
When all have been seated, Luke 22:14-20[21-30] is read:
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the fine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. [But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table/ But I am among you as the one who serves.
“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”]
All stand for the blessings. The following blessing is prayed over the wine [or grape juice]:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You create the fruit of the vine; and on this night you have refreshed us with the cup of salvation in the Blood of your Son Jesus Christ. Glory to you forever and ever. Amen.
The following blessing is prayed over the bread:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You bring forth bread from the earth; and on this night you have given us the bread of life in the Body of your Son Jesus Christ. As grain scattered upon the earth is gathered into one loaf, so gather your Church in every place into the kingdom of your Son. To you be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
The following blessing is prayed over the remainder of the food:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You have blessed the earth to bring forth food to satisfy our hunger. Let this food strengthen us in the fast that is before us, that following our Savior in the way of the cross, we may come to the joy of his resurrection. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, now and for ever. Amen.
The meal is eaten. Toward its close, a person appointed may read John 17.
The meal concludes with the Our Father.