Do you remember observing Maundy Thursday at home last year? It felt like a quaint, one-time experience we would share with our children, then years later share as a story with future generations of the family. Except of course, it wasn’t a one-time experience. We’re here again, a year later with another Maundy Thursday at home.
Last year I 100% replicated Meaghan Brower’s Maundy Thursday post with my own children. We prepared a simple soup supper and gathered items needed to wash our feet and also our kitchen table. My husband was live-streaming a service from the church he serves, so after dinner we worshipped with him while sitting at at home. It all felt so incredibly novel.
After virtual worship, we used a resource created by the Rev. Jennifer McNally and the Rev. Anna V. Ostenso Moore of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota to guide our conversation about the Last Supper and Jesus’ humble act of washing his disciples’ feet. We read scripture, we asked wondering questions, and then we took turns kneeling and washing.
Creating this experience for our family was life-giving for me last year. The Pandemic was so new; it was before I was worn down with decision fatigue and literal physical fatigue. It was before screen time replaced creativity and short tempers replaced grace-filled patience. It was before my children protested virtual church.
It’s so hard for me to even remember those days. I’ve actually dreaded another Holy Week at home, because frankly, I just don’t have the energy to force my kids into distanced worship or come up with something creative that they’d actually enjoy. But, as I look at these pictures from last year I’m reminded that so much of the holiness came from the day itself, not from energy levels or creative worship.
Maundy Thursday is a day that my children have always loved. Eight years ago our son invited his entire pre-k class to attend the service, because he desperately wanted to wash all of their tiny feet. I remember our daughter who struggled to sit quietly in church as a young child, was held captivate with wide eyes by the somber dance of stripping the altar. Light bulbs would appear above their heads as the lector read from 1 Corinthians, making the connection between the Last Supper and the Holy Eucharist we receive every week (or at least used to receive every week). Even though the novelty of home church wore off months ago, much of last year’s observance of Maundy Thursday will remain true this year because my children truly appreciate this liturgy as much as I do.
We will once again prepare a simple meal together. We will gather candles and footwashing supplies. We will break bread and take discussion prompts from the Maundy Thursday At Home resource that Jennifer and Anna created for 2021.
The one notable difference for our observance this year will be emphasizing Jesus’ new commandment outlined in the assigned gospel reading for the day. Maundy comes from the Latin word meaning ‘mandate,’ and that’s what Jesus offers us, a new mandate. As his disciples, we aren’t just tasked with loving our neighbors as ourselves but to love one another just as Jesus loved us. That’s a whole different kind of love. Jesus’ is an active love that isn’t self-serving, biased, conditional, or finite.
These past few weeks have been especially hard in our house—full of sibling arguments, deceitful behaviors, and new records of apathy. Today I need a reminder of this call to Maundy Thursday love and I know my children do as well. The sacred, humble liturgical acts of Maundy Thursday and Jesus’ new mandate of how we are to love others will offer the call-back that we so desperately need right now. The past few weeks have been a hard part of our family story, but thankfully they aren’t the only part of our story. Easter is coming.