Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Maundy Thursday 2011

Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, is the commemoration of Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples. It is the event that we remember when we participate in the Eucharist, or Holy Communion.

The Revised Common Lectionary includes 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 in the appointed readings:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for* you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Episcopal Lectionary, which The Episcopal Church has replaced with the RCL, also included verses 27-32 as an option:

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For all who eat and drink* without discerning the body,* eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.* 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined* so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

I wish those verses had remained in the reading, at least as an option. They tell us that with Communion comes responsibility and accountability. We cannot simply take in Christ’s Body and Blood as some kind of spiritual fuel. We need to be aware of the state of our minds and hearts if we choose to bind ourselves to Christ. Pretending to be part of Christ, by receiving Communion in an unworthy manner, is something we do at our own peril.

The Disciplinary Rubrics of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1979) address this matter in their instructions to priests concerning Communion. We laypeople should be aware of these rubrics and use them as a guide to discern the state of our spiritual readiness for Communion.

If the priest knows that a person who is living a notoriously evil life intends to come to Communion, the priest shall speak to that person privately, and tell him that he may not come to the Holy Table until he has given clear proof of repentance and amendment of life.

The priest shall follow the same procedure with those who have done wrong to their neighbors and are a scandal to the other members of the congregation, not allowing such persons to receive Communion until they have made restitution for the wrong they have done, or have at least promised to do so.

When the priest sees that there is hatred between members of the congregation, he shall speak privately to them, telling them that they may not receive Communion until they have forgiven each other.

And if the person or persons on one side truly forgive the others and desire and promise to make up for their faults, but those on the other side refuse to forgive, the priest shall allow those who are penitent to come to Communion, but not those who are stubborn.

In all such cases, the priest is required to notify the bishop, within fourteen days at the most, giving the reasons for refusing Communion.

As I stated before, I wish the additional verses in the reading from Corinthians had not been removed. We have a responsibility, when we take in Christ himself in the form of spiritual food and drink, to truly desire to follow him. We show that desire by living in accord with our neighbors and being truly repentant when we have wronged God, our neighbors and ourselves.

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