I have just come from serving as subdeacon at the Maundy Thursday mass. This is a deeply symbolic service because our priest washes the feet of twelve parishioners just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples after the Last Supper. As subdeacon, I was right next to Father Davies. I poured warm water from a pitcher on the feet of each person, then Father Davies washed and kissed them, followed by Deacon Johnson, who dried them. This is deeply emotional for most people (including me) because it demonstrates Jesus’s belief that he was a humble servant. The scripture reading for this in the Gospel of John 13:34 states, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”) To me, this is the essential Christian message.
Later the altar was stripped and the Holy Sacrament was moved to the Damien chapel to the Altar of Repose. This was in preparation for Good Friday. Afterward, Father Davies returned to the altar and threw 30 coins in the air to symbolize the 30 pieces of silver Judas received for betraying Jesus. These clattered onto the altar and the floor. Then the church was plunged into darkness.
This is the night that Jesus asked his disciples to watch with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. They failed in their duties to watch “for just one hour,” and later Peter betrayed him three times before the cock crew. Yet Jesus loved and forgave them all. Again, essential aspects of the Christian message.
Onward to Good Friday.