Greetings to all on this Maundy Thursday:
The clergy and licensed lay ministers of the Diocese have this morning been privileged to be included in a Service of Holy Communion led by the Bishop of Chelmsford from his study at his house in Margaretting. Even I, with the aid of a video-conferencing tool called “Zoom”, was able to watch and join in with it. I did this in my prayer room, where each day I sit and pray – so below you can see not only another face of Jesus, but below that, our Bishop!:
At the Maundy Thursday Service we as ministers renew our ordination vows and are reminded of what ministry should really be about. The Gospel reading is always the Last Supper as recorded by St John, Chapter 13, where Jesus washes the Disciples’ feet. Now, I could choose no other image of Jesus for this than the one that Fr. Robert made us aware of, and of which we gave him a large copy when he was licensed in his new role in the 10 Parishes. It is by Ford Madox Brown (1858) – and called Jesus washes the feet of Peter
There is much in this picture to challenge and inspire us (which is why Robert asked to have it) and, though Peter’s face tells one story, I just refer to the ‘body language’ and face of Jesus: his absolute, humble concentration on the task in hand.
The strange name “Maundy” comes from the Latin Mandatum Novum – “New Commandment” – and reminds us of the verse 34 of Chapter 13 of John’s Gospel: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another..”.
Several things happen at a ‘normal’ Maundy Thursday Service at the Cathedral (including the renewal of ordination vows and the receiving of the Holy Oils for use in our Churches); the key theme of the Service, though, is the power of love.
I invite you to look at the face and posture of Jesus in this picture: I think from it we learn that to really love is to give our whole attention to another; to do whatever we are doing – which may be practical, or it may be speaking or listening to them, or simply thinking of them when we apart – with as much focus and care as we are able to give. Giving people what we call our “undivided attention” is a powerful thing.
Now of course, this is not always easy, we do not always get it right, and we should not be discouraged when that happens. But, as Christians we do believe that love is paramount – the love of God for us, our love towards others in God’s strength, and indeed a healthy love for ourselves too.
As we look at this face of Jesus, may we be reminded of that calling to humility and real attention to others, knowing that this is the attention that Jesus gives to each of us if we, like Peter in the end, let him.
May God bless you all as we journey with Jesus in this Holy Week.
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