Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passover into Maundy Thursday

Last night I celebrated with my partner and a few friends the Passover Seder, the ritualistic meal where Jews remember their membership with YHWH (aka Adonai aka God) by escaping slavery in Egypt, and living out in the desert. Our meal was vegan, which was in keeping with the theme of our stewardship for all of creation... including animals. And, besides placing a cup on the table for Elijah, one of our guests brought a cup for Miriam, the sister of Moses who was one of the women of the Hebrew Bible who helped to preserve her people. She saved Moses as a baby, and she was identified as the source of the water for the Jews as they trekked across the desert, complaining all the way!

I'm careful to not interject Christianity or Christian thinking at these occassions because I don't want to come off as sounding like one of "those people"... meaning the "Believe in Jesus or you're going to hell!" types. But later, my partner and I were talking about the portion of the Haggadah (the ritual reading) that was mine to read, the blessing of the Mahtzah. I was interested that I had to break the "bread" in two, while reciting the significance of this bread. And in my head, I was reminded that, in Mark's gospel at least, Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with the disciples when he tells them that the unleavened bread they were going to eat was "his body". And he later takes the wine cup, which figures very prominently in a seder, and declares it his blood which is poured out for many. Who knows what the actual prayers were that Jesus was supposed to say at that moment. Instead he took it as the time to introduce a new "thing": eat this bread, and drink this wine, and through this action you are united to me... and to each other... and to "the many" who will come to eat and drink of God.
It seems the apostles couldn't see the handwriting on the wall at that point. But then, if they had figured it out, the story might have changed course, and that certainly wasn't God's plan.

Tonight, I'll be joining with others at St. John's for the traditional Maundy Thursday service which involves the act of washing the feet of each other... another act symbolizing our fellowship in the priesthood... and servitude... of Christ. In John's gospel, we hear how Peter, the disciple who always seems to want to pipe up with all the answers and earn the gold stars, says, "Not just my feet, but my head, too." Every time I hear this, I smile and think, "Peter, Peter, Peter: you are so caught up in the man Jesus that you are not seeing the bigger picture!" Since this is a ritual dinner, the Passover, one can figure that all the disciples washed up before they came. But the dust that they have collected on their feet... a metaphor for sins... is still clinging to them. This is at least one interpretation that I have read about this moment. And it makes sense given the directive to the disciples as they travel from town to town that anywhere where they aren't welcomed as is the Jewish custom of welcoming the stranger, "shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them."(Mark 6:11) The specialness, to me, of the Maundy Thursday service is its quiet simplicity, and the reflection upon how Christ was infusing the importance of our bonds with him and each other in the breaking of the bread.

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.--Collect for Maundy Thursday, BCP pg. 221

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You almost did Fr. Denson's homily tonight with your blog. I am going to send it to him. I called and left a message for Isabe. I hope she got it. I am glad you joined in the seder, and I wish I had been there.