Last night I took part for the first time in the very moving liturgy for Maundy Thursday. My placement incumbent invited me to have my feet washed, and then to lead the intercessions. The service finished (as it should) abrubtly after the post-communion prayer, and the altar and all church furnishings were stripped away during the reading of Psalm 88 and a recording of a Taize call to prayer. The lights were all turned off, except for in the Lady Chapel where amidst candles, a watch was then kept till midnight over the sacrament. I shared in the watch until about 10.15pm and what follows are the reflections I wrote during this time:
All became bare.
We see only what is underneath:
the glory is gone;
the majesty has been stripped away.
Revealed is what?
the mortar between the stones;
those small things of which we’re made and which we cannot hide.
Somewhere above us shrouded in the darkness,
an image casts a shadow,
but is not clearly visible.
The cross, and Christ’s broken body.
That brokenness is ours.
We have failed, and will fail again.
Though we sit here at a distance,
how close dare we really get?
Our silence is Peter’s.
Is our position in the shadows this night, also his denial?
Who can force us to speak,
hidden between the sheltering walls,
protected from the chill world?
There is no-one here to question who we follow, or what we do;
except the focus of our gaze,
the burning point of light,
the presence of our God.
He has drawn us to this place,
the silence of this emptiness,
an oasis through which he fills us.
His perfect Son he called to give his best,
which was his all,
his body broken, his blood poured out.
We his imperfect children,
he also calls to give our best.
Is this our all?
Are we broken and poured out?
On this night, Christ’s work was not complete,
nor will it be when that shrouded cross
becomes too visible in the high places
under which we will stand and gaze.
As with the ceremony of our memorial,
and with our faint hearts and service,
all remains incomplete, torn, unsettled and discordant.
We struggle with our lack of understanding,
that which turns mere words into knowledge,
the actions of custom into true service.
As we fail in our watchless sleep,
or turn in fear and flee this silent presence,
what will remain?
And for how long?
Will it be that our response will lead us forever away from our Lord?
Or can we let the presence of the Light fill us with a hope
that somehow, midst our seeming failures
and poor efforts to acknowledge this true love,
bring us to a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to receive;
to live and love our God,
whose glory could only be revealed complete,
in this broken way.
With thanks to my hosts at All Saints, Basingstoke.