Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Pes'ho/Maundy Thursday
Volume 6 No. 339 March 22, 2016
II. Featured Articles

Maundy Thursday and Triduum
The Holiest Days of Passion Week

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

From Sundown on Wednesday till Easter Sunday morning we have the most important and holiest days of Christianity. Even people who seldom goes to church attends service on Good Friday. The churches are packed to capacity and crowd spills into outside. We try to find some precious space where we can kneel on Good Friday. It is a different feeling. The mood is very somber as compared to Palm Sunday. We see many faithful who weep during the first procession on Good Friday, symbolically representing the journey of Jesus Christ to Calvary carrying the cross accompanied by weeping women.

Of course on Easter the mood completely changes.

"He is Risen! He is Risen!!"
"Indeed He is Risen!"

everyone proclaims. It is a day of joy. Jesus has overcame death and conquered Satan. He had paid for our sins and we are now eligible to become the children of God. God's plan to redeem the mankind is complete. This was the sole reason why Jesus, the second person of Trinity, has incarnated as a man. Only He can undo the sin of Adam and Eve.

So, all these happens in the next 3 days. But then Jesus does something extra too. Most of that ('extras') happened on Maundy Thursday.

Now we come to the name 'Maundy' Thursday. What is that? Where did that come from?

The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin word Mandatum (itself from the verb Mandare), which is translated "commandment." This is the first extra Jesus did on Maundy Thursday. Jesus gave a new commandment to the disciples on Pes'ho. He did something unusual.

He took a bucket of water and a cloth and started washing and drying the dirty legs of the disciples. Normally when a guest arrives in a house, a slave will perform this job. Jesus did that job and said that in Christianity a leader should 'serve' and should be the servant. We, in Malankara World, have explained this concept called 'servant leadership' before. It is what distinguishes Christianity - our humility. Humility is the character that is loved by God. We see this exemplified by St. Mary when she said "yes" to the angel on annunciation day and Jesus who, although God, became a man.

After washing the legs of the disciples, Jesus gave the new commandment. This is recorded in John 13.

Latin Version

Mandatum novum do vobis: ut diligatis invicem,
sicut delexi vos, dicit Dominus.

Ps. Beati immaculate iin via: qui ambulant in lege Domini.
Mandatum novum.

English Translation

A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, says the Lord.

Ps. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord.
A new commandment.

This is from where Maundy Thursday got its name.

The full commandment as given in John 13:34-35 reads as follows:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Jesus has summarized the ten commandments into two commandments, revolving around Love.

1. Love God
2. Love your neighbor.

So, the new commandment is, not surprisingly, 'Love'. Love one another. After all, 'God is Love.'

By dying on the cross, Jesus Christ paid for our sins and made us children of God, who is love. So, as children of God, and made in the image of God, we should love one another. That is the new commandment or mandatum.

The second important thing Jesus did on Maundy Thursday is what is popularly known as "Last Supper." Michel Angelo had painted this scene that became immortal. But it was not just a supper. It was more than that.

During the Last Supper, Jesus offers himself as the Passover sacrifice, the sacrificial lamb. He established the Eucharist or our Holy Qurbano and instituted the priesthood.

The institution of Passover is explained in Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14. God gave specific instructions to Moses and Aaron on how to do it. Let us take a look:

The Passover Instituted

12 Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 "This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it."
- Exodus 12:1-8 (NKJV)

11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover.

12 'For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.'

14 'So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.'
- Exodus 12:11-14 (NKJV)

Jesus has precisely timed his events on his last week to fulfill all the prophesies on Messiah by the prophets. Note that Pharisees and the temple people tried to catch Jesus before; but he 'escaped'. But when the time was correct, he let himself be 'captured' by the guards in the Garden of Gethsemane by making himself known to them. He could have escaped as they didn't know, in the darkness, who they were looking for. But Jesus knew his time was up.

The arrival of Jesus on the 10th of Nissan in AD30 (Palm Sunday) was one of the greatest moments in all of history. Jesus hit Jerusalem with pin point accuracy. Jesus came on the very day and hour God had appointed for His presentation to the Nation and the World as God's Passover Lamb.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem at exactly the time that the Passover lambs were chosen. Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem was not a coincidence. On this day, the Jews, during Christ's time, had to choose a lamb to cover their sins. However, Jesus entered Jerusalem as the one Lamb that God sent to die as the sacrifice for the sin of the whole world.

The last week of Christ's life assures us that we can fully trust God's Word. In the Old Testament, God promises mankind that a Savior will come. The final week of Jesus' life fulfilled many prophecies in the Bible including His death, burial and resurrection.

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus knew that this was the last time he was going to celebrate Passover with his disciples. So, he wanted to make it a memorable event. And sure it was!

When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
- Luke 22:14-16 (NKJV)

I do not think the disciples grasped the significance of what Jesus was telling them at the Upper Room, a day before his crucifixion. After Jesus' resurrection, they did!

And then the last supper took place. Here is how St. Luke reported it:

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
- Luke 22:17-20

With these words, Jesus instituted our sacrament Eucharist (Holy Qurbano) and the vocation of priesthood. We hear this during our Holy Qurbano every time it is celebrated.

Interestingly, this is how we celebrate the Liturgy during our Qurbano (Adapted From Syriac Orthodox 'Thaksa')

Whom all the heavenly orders, divisions and hosts adore, whom angels and arch-angels, cherubim and seraphim, thrones and lordships invisible and innumerable, laud and extol with voices unceasing and with tongues ineffable,
giving utterance to Thy triumphant glory, praising, shouting, crying and saying

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, heaven and earth are full of glory, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He that came and is to come in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the Highest.
[Recall the Palm Sunday for this passage.]

[The celebrant waves his hands over the holy mysteries saying silently:]

Truly, Thou art holy,
O God the Father and Thy Holy Spirit who is verily holy,
with Thy Holy Son our Lord Jesus Christ

[Takes the host from the paten and placing it on the palm of his left hand raises his eyes heavenwards saying:]

When he, because of his love,
took flesh on our behalf and willingly lowered himself
for the sake of our salvation and suffered in the flesh.

In the night of his passion,
he took bread in his holy hands,
blessed, ++ consecrated+ broke
and gave it to his disciples and said,
Take, eat, from this;
this is my body given for the remission of debts,
for the forgiveness of sins and for life eternal.
(well haye delolam olmin)

(After this secret prayer Blesses the Bread)

[Blesses the Cup]

Likewise he took also the cup,
blessed ++, consecrated + and
gave it to his disciples and said
Take, drink from it, all of you,
for the remission of debts and the forgiveness of sins,
and for life eternal.
[well haye delolam olmin]

And he commanded them beforehand saying, whenever you participate in this Holy Mystery,
you are commemorating my death and my resurrection,
until my coming again.
('damo le methitho dilye)...

[words of commemoration]

Thy death, O Lord,
we commemorate Thy resurrection
we confess and the second coming we look for.
May Thy mercy be upon us all.


Thy death we remember Thy resurrection
we confess Thy second coming we look for;
Thy blessings be upon us.

We therefore, Thy sinful and guilty servants, recall Thy whole redeeming economy and operation; we await Thy awesome and glorious second coming, about which we tremble and quake; and we offer up our prayer and intercessions to Thee, and through Thee to Thy Father beseeching and saying (mphisinan womrinan)

Have mercy upon us, O God the Father All-Sovereign.

This is followed by the thanksgiving and then the invocation of the Holy Spirit.

The anaphora comes from the Gospel Passages and from 1 Cor. 11:23-25

So, let us take another look at what Jesus did on the Last Supper.

Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper

These are described in

1) Matt. 26:26-30;
2) Mark 14:22-26;
3) Luke 22:19-20; and
4) 1 Cor. 11:23-25.

According to Christopher Robert Hodges, this is what Jesus did that day:

1. First, Jesus took some unleavened bread and blessed it and gave it to His disciples to eat, which was to represent His body.

2. Second, Jesus took some fruit of the vine and blessed it and gave it to His disciples to drink, which was to represent His blood.

3. Then, Jesus stated that He would only drink the fruit of the vine when the new kingdom (i.e., the church) was established.

4. Afterwards, Jesus and His disciples sung a hymn, probably Psalm 115-118

Jesus' death is here understood in three ways:

A. First, He is our Passover Lamb (cf. 1 Cor. 5:7).

1. He is the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

2. He is a "lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:19).

3. Because of Him, God's wrath passes us over (cf. Rom. 5:9).

B. Second, He inaugurated a new covenant.

1. "The reference to the covenant established in Jesus' blood contains an allusion to Exod. 24:6-8, where the old covenant at Sinai was ratified by the sprinkling of sacrificial blood, and serves to set the whole of Jesus' messianic action in the light of covenant renewal. It also evokes Jer. 31:31-33 where God promises to establish a new covenant with his people in the last days. That promise is now sealed through Jesus' action and the death it anticipates".

2. "Just as the blood of a sacrificial animal sealed the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai, so the blood of Jesus sealed the new covenant God made with his new people, the church, at the cross".

C. Third, He shed His blood as a sin offering.

1. "Being 'poured out for many' is an allusion to Isaiah 53:12, which speaks of the Messiah as one who 'poured out his life unto death'".

2. Jesus tasted death for every man (cf. Heb. 2:9).

At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus Christ had teary farewell with his disciples. He prophesizes that one of the disciples will betray him and hand him over to the Roman soldiers.

Then Jesus, with the 11 disciples, depart for the Garden of Gethsemane. There he prays and then caught by the palace guards and take him to the chief priest. Thus begins Jesus' passion (Good Friday)

I hope that this description of what happened on Maundy Thursday will help you understand our Qurbano (Living Sacrifice) and the sacraments of our Syriac Orthodox Church.

What's so 'New' about the New Covenant?

by Dr. Mark Giszczak

In all likelihood, you've heard the gospel message a few thousand times. God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for your sins and rise again so that "whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). If that message about the new covenant is 2,000 years old then how is it still new? Most other things that are 2,000 years old are in ruins, so how does this ancient good news maintain its freshness?

Setting the Stage

In Jeremiah 31:31-34, a new covenant is prophesied - a covenant that transforms us from within. The Old Covenant, the covenant with Moses and the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, did transform people, but it did so by externally prescribing a difficult-to-obey law. The identity of the adherents of the Old Covenant came from reading, studying, and practicing that law in detail. Unfortunately, ancient Israel could not live up to the Law. They failed in many ways to keep the law, which God had entrusted to them. Whether their grumbling about the food in the Exodus period or the idolatry of the kings in later periods, the people did not live up to God's expectations.

God's Mastery

In response to the infidelities of his people, God punished them. In the wilderness, the disobedient generation died before they could enter the promised land. In later times, the Lord allowed Israel to be conquered by Assyria and Judah to be vanquished by Babylon. The prophecy says, "I had to show myself their master" (Jer 31:32 NAB). In Jeremiah's day, the remnant of Jews survived as a refugee community in ancient Babylon. Jeremiah forecasts that God will bring them back to the Holy Land and establish a new covenant with them.

What's so "New"?

But this new covenant will not be like the old one. Rather than having an external code to adhere to, the new covenant will have an internal law, specifically, an "interior law of charity". Jeremiah says it best: "I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts" (Jer 31:33 RSV). The difference between old and new is the way God interacts with us. The old law was only able to show us how unrighteous we were because we could not live up to it, but under the new law of love, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us an enable us by grace to live out God's calling.

Not only that, but Jeremiah says no one will even need to teach others how to know the Lord. This might be a bit of exaggeration, but even St. Paul says that once we become mature Christians, "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16). More than that, "the Spirit of truth" dwells within us (John 14:17) and will guide us "into all the truth" (John 16:13). Jeremiah also says that everyone in God's people will "know the Lord," without distinctions based on class, status, or age. Paul sees that same distinction-less knowledge of God under the new covenant: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28 RSV). Knowledge of God, deep, intimate relationship with him, is available to everyone.

New Covenant?

Jeremiah prophesies the New Covenant here (Jer 31:31). The New Testament writers see the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (Luk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:13, 9:15, 12:24). In fact, the word "Testament" is an older English translation of the Greek (diatheke) and Hebrew (berit) words for covenant. The covenant is made in the blood of Christ. He is the "mediator" of the new covenant (Heb 12:24), the apostles are its ministers (2 Cor 3:6), and through it, we are not only redeemed but promised an inheritance (Heb 9:15). Under the old covenant, one could look forward to the promise of a peaceful life in the Promised Land, but under the new covenant, we look forward to the eternal Sabbath rest of heaven.

Is It Still New?

The ancient message of the gospel is still new for us today. Why? The Gospel is not about setting up a legal system, but about transforming hearts. It is about freeing people, one at a time, from the darkness and slavery of sin and releasing them into "the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Rom 8:21 NAB). Conversion to Christ and the Gift of the Holy Spirit are not ancient cultural relics from the Roman world, but are offered anew everyday by our eternal God, who dwells outside of time, to those of us dwelling inside of time who are willing to listen to him. As birth and death have never gone out of fashion, so the gospel message will constantly retain its power, its relevance and its newness.

So yes, the New Covenant is still new. It will always be "new" in that it offers us not a code of external prescriptions, but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is new in that it is available to all, not restricted to any one group of people. And the new covenant is always new in that it can transform each of us when we are willing to open our hearts to its Mediator. He is always ready to offer us the freedom, the salvation, the transformation he bought with the price of his blood.

He Gives Himself Entirely to Us

By Fr. Altier


Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
St. John 13:1-15

Today we celebrate the feast on which the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood took place. It is also, therefore, the day on which Our Lord, exercising His priesthood, offered Himself as a sacrifice sacramentally. He had not yet physically sacrificed Himself, that would take place the next day, but already in the Blessed Sacrament at the Last Supper He offered himself in a sacramental form under the forms of bread and wine so that He could give Himself to His disciples in the most intimate way.

But in order to demonstrate what it was that He was doing, He first washed their feet. This is something that they did not understand. Peter, of course, objected. “You will never wash my feet,” he said. But then Jesus said to him, If I do not wash your feet, you have no part of My inheritance. Now if we consider what this really means, remember that Our Lord Himself told us that He came into this world to serve and not to be served. Saint Paul says,

He took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. But even that was not enough to be able to understand what it was that He was doing because we recall that by Jewish law not even a slave could be forced to wash the feet of his master because that was considered beneath human dignity. Considering what they would have been walking through, wearing sandals and having no sanitation the way that we think of it with sewer systems and all the things underground, all of their things would have been above ground and their feet would have been pretty filthy. And absolutely no one could be required to wash the feet of someone else. So Our Lord, in order to demonstrate to His disciples the extent to which He was willing to go, lowered Himself and became less than a slave. He was willing to deny Himself in everything for the sake of those who would follow Him.

If we just consider what He does for us today, if it was not too much for Him to wash the feet of His disciples and make Himself lower than a slave, today He gives Himself to us in the form of a piece of bread. He is Almighty God, and He comes to us in a way that is so humble that unless He Himself had said it no one would believe it because, once again, it is lower than a slave. Yet He told us that we have to do the same. When we recognize what He has done for us, then He tells His disciples that they have to do the same, that we have to be willing to make ourselves less than everyone else, which He also said in other places. But if we understand it in its context, it makes perfect sense.

Recall that the two sacraments which are most closely aligned are the Eucharist and marriage; all of the symbolism is identical. And so what Jesus is requiring of Saint Peter and of the other apostles is that they had to receive the gift which Our Lord was giving, just as a married couple receives from one another the gift that is being given. When you think about it from the point of view of the giver, it is a beautiful gift but a very humble gift because it makes one completely vulnerable and places one completely at the service of the other because it is giving, not taking. But part of the gift that a married couple offers to one another is to receive the gift that the other is offering. So too with the Eucharist. If we are not willing to receive what Jesus is giving, if we try to take it instead of receive it (which is a purely selfish act, then), we have no part of Him. But if we can receive in love the gift which He gives in love, then we have part of His inheritance, then we are united, because we give ourselves to Him as a gift and we receive His gift of self to our own selves and then we become one. That is precisely what Our Lord desires for us.

But in order to become fully one, we have to give it all. We have to become less than a slave. A slave has to give to a certain point; and when the slave is giving, it is because he is being required to give. It is not that way with Christ; it must be a gift, not something which is required. So He tells us, when He says what is required, that we have to do the same – but, once again, it cannot be under force; rather it must be freely chosen, freely given, and freely received – to make ourselves completely vulnerable, to open ourselves entirely to Him. Of course, in order to do that, it means also placing ourselves at the service of others, precisely the thing He told us to do when He commanded us to love God and to love our neighbor. That is exactly what we have in the Blessed Sacrament, the example that Jesus continues to give us.

If He Who is God, He Who is Teacher and Master, is willing to do what a slave could not even be required to do, is willing to humble Himself so completely that He would give Himself to us in the form of a piece of bread so that we could actually receive Him into ourselves, then we have to look and say, "What's wrong with me that I am not willing to do the same? If God is willing to do this for me, why do I think it beneath my dignity to serve others? Why do I think it beneath my dignity to accept the ridicule of others? Why do I think it beneath my dignity to remain silent when people heap disgrace upon me? Why do I think it beneath my dignity to become a slave of Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother?" That is what we need to look at. When we see that He has made Himself lower than a slave for us, that He came into this world and loved and gave Himself completely in love, what are we willing to do in return?

Again, when we look at marriage, it is not a 50-50 proposition; it is 100-100. Jesus gave one hundred percent. If we are really, really generous, maybe some of us are willing to give 60…70. That is not enough. For those of you who are married, imagine what that would be like. "I love you with half of my being." "I love you with three-quarters of myself." "I'm willing to give part of me to you." What would that do to your marriage? It would result in exactly the problem we have in marriage today: It would be a disaster.

Jesus gave it all. He continues to give it all, and He asks that we would do the same, to lower ourselves, to become less than a slave, but not in force - in love - so that we will die to ourselves and we will give ourselves to Him and to our brothers and sisters in a perfect act of love.

That You Should Do As I Have - Maundy Thursday

by Samuel Zumwalt

Gospel: John 13:1-17, 34

1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" 7 Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." 8 Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." 9 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" 10 Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean." 12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord-- and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.


Holy Baptism is a way of life – daily dying to sin through confessing our need for a Savior and daily being raised to live a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit (given as a free gift in baptism).

Maundy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum ("three days" in Latin), introduces us to shape of this baptized life and the real meaning of discipleship. We are to do as the Lord Jesus does. We are to love as our Master loves. He gives us a new commandment – to give our lives away in humble service even unto death.

Now, needless to say, the inner circle of disciples didn't get it that night or the next or the next. When Jesus took off his outer cloak and tied a towel around himself and began to wash feet like the lowliest servant, the disciples were taken aback and even repulsed by this kind of deliberate choice. When Jesus was arrested later that night and went without protest, the disciples were terrified and lost heart by this kind of deliberate choice. When Jesus was on trial before the religious leaders and the secular leaders, when he was mocked and beaten, when he was condemned to death, the disciples were in fear for their own lives and disbelieving of this kind of deliberate choice. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, the disciples were grief stricken and utterly disoriented by this kind of deliberate choice.

Only later, after the fact, when they knew the rest of the story, only then would the disciples begin to understand that Holy Baptism is a way of life – the pattern of dying to self and rising to life a new life of humble service in the power of the Holy Spirit. In short, during the original Triduum, the disciples could not be faulted for not knowing what they didn't know. And to the extent that anyone has not been taught what it means to die and rise with Christ in the washing of Holy Baptism, that person cannot be faulted for not knowing what she or he doesn't know. Nevertheless, all sin and all die.

But if we know what it means to die and rise with Christ in the washing of Holy Baptism and we do not do it, then we stand with all those that have renounced and abandoned the Christian faith. Abandoning God, we are guilty of apostasy.

The hard truth about us is that we do not fear, love, and trust God above all else. In short, daily we renounce the Lord our God and abandon the Christian faith. Daily we fail to die to ourselves and knowingly commit apostasy. Following the suggestion of C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, I call this functional atheism. When we exclude God from whole portions and chapters of our lives, we abandon our God and function as atheists in that area or that period of our lives.

We live in a culture that despises the Christian faith and encourages us to function as atheists. The Lord Jesus' call to give your lives away in humble service is often mimicked by random acts of kindness like blood drives and collections for world hunger even in churches! But this culture urges and encourages us to "look out for yourself – do what you want, do what makes you happy, do what you feel like doing."

This culture doesn't want to be told that prices need to be raised to pay a living wage to everyone. This culture doesn't want to be told that taxes need to be raised to provide health care to those that don't have it, to provide an education to all that need it, to take care of those that cannot work and those that no longer can work. This culture doesn't want to be told that roads, bridges, and sewers are wearing out and need to be replaced and that it's going to cost money. Instead we love to hear the politicians say "No new taxes!" And we believe we can have everything without any personal cost.

This culture doesn't want to be told that selfishness breeds selfishness, heartache, and destruction. Instead it celebrates the freedom of the individual. This culture says that whatever you feel like doing is fine within very few limits.

This culture says that if you feel like having consensual sex, go ahead and do it. This culture says that if you feel like living together outside of marriage, go ahead and do it. This culture says that if you feel like abandoning your marriage and your children, go ahead and do it. This culture says that if you feel like aborting a child, go ahead and do it. This culture says that if you feel like all the previous generations are wrong about marriage being for one woman and one man until death parts them, go ahead and do it. This culture says that if you feel like it's a burden to take care of someone and you feel that it's time for them to die, go ahead and do it.

The Lord Jesus says to us: "Do as I have done – give your lives away in humble service." And we answer back: "You have got to be kidding!" After all, the culture we live in is far more appealing than the kingdom the Lord Jesus calls us to inhabit. Autonomous individuals don't want to be told what to do, and so we keep deconstructing what God has made. Like those that put the Lord Jesus on trial, we declare that the Lord Jesus is a threat to our culture. And He is! He is out to destroy this culture of death. He is out to obliterate its obsession with selfish autonomy. He longs to give us a new life!

Someone once said: Before the truth sets you free, it makes you mad! Well, that's not quite it. The Lord Jesus is the Truth embodied. In Hs presence, all of us are exposed as selfish, functional atheists that are on the way to the cemetery. Even our random acts of kindness are shown for what they are – magnanimous gestures by self-serving egotists! We do not fear, love, and trust God above all else. Left to ourselves, we abandon God.

Confronted with the Truth – in the presence of Jesus the truth about himself – Simon Peter asked to be washed. Confronted with the Truth – in the presence of Jesus the truth about ourselves – we at began the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday with the words of Psalm 51: "Wash me through and through from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin" (v. 2). We confessed our utter brokenness. We were reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. The Truth about us is that there is no help or hope to be found within this body of death. No matter how many counselors and false prophets tell us that we should follow our feelings. The Truth is our feelings are the stuff of death.

Baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we die to ourselves again and again. If we do not die to ourselves, we function as atheists and abandon God. The liberation provided by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is not, as the false prophets say, a freedom to follow my feelings and my experience wherever that leads. The Lord Jesus means freedom from the culture of death – freedom to die to ourselves daily – to go to our graves giving our lives away daily in humble service like Jesus!

We should enter into this Triduum – these three days – with awe and wonder, because we know that the Lord Jesus deliberately chose to do what we gladly run away from. In love that is beyond our imagination and our ability, God in the flesh willingly and without hesitation went the way that we cannot go if we are left to our selfish selves.

That night when the disciples were gathered with him for supper, the Lord Jesus did what every pious Jew does to this day. He took bread and wine and gave the King of the Universe thanks and praise for it. But on that occasion, the Lord Jesus said: "This my body and this my blood given and shed for you."

His disciples did not know what He was up to, but we baptized Christians know the rest of the story. The Lord Jesus was promising that the life He was about to sacrifice for the sins of the world would be ever after given in bread and wine as we eat and drink, remembering that we were there with Him on the cross. In Holy Baptism, we have already died with Him on Calvary's tree and now in the Holy Communion He gives us His life as a free gift again and again and again unto eternity.

Left to ourselves, we abandon God and can never love as Christ loves us. But dying to ourselves daily and being filled with that Life and that Love that can never be taken from us, we can give our lives away in humble service just like the One who lives in and through us.

Today, in this place, it seems possible as we look around to see Visible Words and living embodiments of the discipled life. Here we have been called out of the world of unbelief, out of the culture of death. But tonight and tomorrow we go to our trials, to our sufferings, and to our crosses, and the culture of death screams out: "Fools, why would you ever live like that when you can be your own little god?"

The Lord Jesus shows us that the way of eternal life leads through the death of self and, yes, the death of this body with all of its feelings and experience. The Lord Jesus shows us that the way of eternal death is nothing other than a celebration of the autonomous self and the culture of death that is trying to seduce us daily!

"Don't go to hell with the culture of death! Come, die with me," says our Lord Jesus, "and you will live forever."

Source: Gφttinger Predigten im Internet ed. by U. Nembach, J. Neukirch

Poem - All Creation Worships You
You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.

To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.

The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

You, Christ, are the King of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.

When you became man to set us free
you did not spurn the Virgin's womb.

You overcame the sting of death,
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

You are seated at God's right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come, and be our judge.

Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.

Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance.
- Govern and uphold them now and always.

Day by day we bless you.
- We praise your name for ever.

Keep us today, Lord, from all sin.
- Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your love and mercy,
- for we have put our trust in you.

In you, Lord, is our hope:
- And we shall never hope in vain.

Maundy Thursday Poem:
The Birthday of the Chalice

by Dom Mark Daniel Kirby

We enter singing a humble song:
"For us, no boasting" (Gal 6:14).
No boasting, that is, of anything that is ours.
For who am I and who are you to boast
in the presence of the Mystery?

Who am I and who are you to boast
on this the night of God's doing,
the night of the covenant?

"Father," says the deacon to the priest
at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy,
"it is time for the Lord to act!"
And so, it is all his doing, not ours.
It is time for the Lord to act!

"For us, no boasting,
but in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is health and life and resurrection to us,
by whom we are saved and set free (cf. Gal 6:14).

If you are sick; he is health.
If you are in the grip of death; he is life.
If you have stumbled and fallen low,
once, twice, three times or more,
he is resurrection.

If you are bound up and fettered,
if you are pushed down, or held back,
or laden with burdens too heavy to bear,
he is deliverance and freedom.

If you are oppressed in sin's narrow place,
he takes you by the hand
and tonight, yes, tonight,
he leads you out into the vast and spacious place
of his prayer to the Father.

"This Father, is my desire,
that all those whom thou hast entrusted to me
may be with me where I am,
so as to see my glory, thy gift made to me,
in that love which thou didst bestow upon me
before the foundation of the world" (Jn 17:24).

This is the birthnight of Eucharistic adoration,
the night of a hushed amazement,
the night of believing disbelief
and of wordless wonder.

This is the night of God at table with man.
Not only does this Companion-God
sit at our board to share our bread:
he becomes Bread in every mouth.

This is the night of the Blood of the Lamb:
the birthday of the Chalice,
the first wave of that immense crimson tide
that tomorrow will flow gushing from the pierced side.

This is the night of the astonishing humility of God.
the night of God bending low
to wash,
to kiss,
to perfume the very feet
will run from the fearful garden in the night,
and from the proud praetorium,
and from the Cross terrible against dark and heavy skies.

"Before you run from me,
O you whom I have chosen to run after me,
let me wash your feet
and mark them sweetly with the imprint of my kiss.
You did not choose me, but I chose you" (Jn 15:16).

This kiss to your feet is the pledge of my paschal absolution.
My feet, you will see them pierced by a nail;
yours, I would pierce them with a kiss,
that turning, you would come back to me
who have come so far in search of you.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, turn back,
turn back to the Lord your God!"

Tonight our Priest begins his ascent:
the solemn procession to the high place of his preaching:
to the noble Tree
from which his voice will go out through all the earth.

Tonight our Priest, without leaving us,
goes into the hidden sanctuary beyond the veil (Heb 6:19);
he appears in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb 9:23),
taking not the blood of goats and calves
but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (Heb 9:12).

Tonight the Lamb without blemish is set before us.
Tonight his Blood is given,
not to be smeared on doorposts and lintels,
but to sanctify our lips
and moisten every parched tongue;

to warm every heart grown cold
with a libation of fire;
to give sweetness for bitterness,
and boldness for fear.

Those marked by the Blood of Lamb,
those with the Blood of the Lamb wet upon their lips
and fragrant on their breath
have passed from death to life.

Every mouth sanctified by the Blood
is, in the Father's eyes, the mouth of the First-Born Son.
Every prayer uttered from Blood-blessed lips,
every kiss offered,
every sigh and every groan,
the Father receives
as coming from the Son.
"In that day you will know
that I am in the Father,
and you in me, and I in you" (Jn 14:20).

The psalmist too sang of the Chalice and of the Blood:
"I will lift up the chalice of salvation,
and call upon the name of the Lord" (Ps 115:13).
Lifted up, it is our thanksgiving: a sun blazing red against the sky.
Pressed to our lips, it is our salvation: the antidote, the remedy,
one drop of which is enough to cure this weary world of every ill.

The Apostle handed on to us
what had had been handed on to him.
O humble and glorious Tradition!
Ours it is to receive what he received,
(to transmit and not to betray,)
to cherish what he cherished,
to obey the commandment he obeyed,
to adore the mystery he adored.

"This is my body which is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me. . . .
This chalice is the new covenant in my Blood.
Do this, as often, as you drink it, in memory of me" (1 Cor 11:24-25).

This is the night of the new priesthood.
Awed they are, not quite understanding and not quite misunderstanding
the fearful spectacle of God bent prostrate at their feet.

He, sinless, kneels to absolve the sinner
while the sinner, seated,
has nought to offer but two bare journey-worn feet
and the story they tell.

"What I am doing you do not know now,
but afterward you will understand . . . .
For I have given you an example,
that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13:7, 15).

Feet they will wash, kneeling before them,
but more than feet,
hearts caked with the hard crust of sin,
and polluted souls,
and faces bearing the traces of blood and tears.

Then we did not know what he was doing,
but now we understand the mystic absolution.
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven;
if you retain the sins of any they are retained" (Jn 20:22-23).

For us, no boasting but in what Love has left us:
the Bread and the Chalice
making present His Sacrifice;
and priests with feet washed clean and anointed hands
to pronounce the Absolution,
to lift high the Oblation.

And behind the sacramental veils
shines the Face for which we yearn:
the Face of immolated Purity,
the Face of Beauty humbled,
the Face of the Priest,
the Face of the Victim,
the Face of Holiness,
the Face of Crucified and Triumphant Love.

In looking, adore Him.
In adoring, look at Him.
And so, pass over
from what is old to what is new,
from the land of heavy burdens to the land of freedom,
from darkness to life,
from sin to holiness,
from groans to jubilations,
from tears to laughter,
from sorrow to bliss,
from combat to peace,
from struggle to rest,
from death to life
It is the Passover of the Lord (Ex 12:11).

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 116:12-18
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15

Source: Vultus Christi

Don't Let Past Failures Stop You From Taking The Next Step

by Oswald Chambers

Taking the Initiative Against Despair

"Rise, let us be going" - Matthew 26:46

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples went to sleep when they should have stayed awake, and once they realized what they had done, it produced despair. The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, "Well, it's all over and ruined now; what's the point in trying anymore." If we think this kind of despair is an exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience.

Whenever we realize we have not taken advantage of a magnificent opportunity, we are apt to sink into despair. But Jesus comes and lovingly says to us, in essence, "Sleep on now. That opportunity is lost forever and you can't change that. But get up, and let's go on to the next thing." In other words, let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him.

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives. We will have times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them. The disciples, in this instance, had done a downright unthinkable thing - they had gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus. But our Lord came to them taking the spiritual initiative against their despair and said, in effect, "Get up, and do the next thing." If we are inspired by God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the basis of His redemption.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step.

Source: My Utmost for His Highest
(The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers)


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