Thursday, 1 April 2010

Night of Nights

I love Holy Thursday : it is real food for the mind, soul and spirit. First, there is the Last Supper in a borrowed upper room : good food by soft candlelight, with conversation and wine. Very Mediterraean. There are beloved companions reclining, possibly in Roman style. We listen to the real, inner Jesus (who sounds like someone really human) talking without hidden meanings (John 15). The breaking of the bread and the Cup of wine reveals how He views the meaning of his own blood. It is the "blood of the new covenant" like that on the doorposts of the Jews in Egypt, that prevented God's curse falling on those covered by it (or in this case drank Communion).

Then, there is a once in all time, unique onslaught of all the powers of evil, triggered by the darstardly betrayal of Judas Iscariot, and carried on by men so out of their mind with jealousy of Jesus that they are willing to commit the crime of conspiracy to murder just to get rid of him in the most vindictive fashion possible.

This same incomparable night opens to us an awesome sense of the total isolation of Jesus, expressing his real inner need for support, in a dark chilly Gethsemane, in sweating agony at the thought of what was coming. Then there is the silence: no response from God nor man. Jesus is left totally alone, inspite of all the earlier chuminess, alone with His supreme calling. This was, in human terms, unthinkable: to carry the penalty for all the evil the world has ever done, on the behalf of a few sleepy ex-fishermen, and for all those throughout all history who would believe in Him.

If Jesus had not gone through with the dreadful Cross, we would never have known about this night so filled by Jesus Himself with warmth, love and enlightenment that nothing in this artificial, corrupted age can ever equal it, except in terms of its efforts to annihilate Him and its misguided efforts to destroy His Church, which, as we know from the story, was and is impossible.

These thoughts came to me during a very moving Maundy Thursday service at church, through the Gospel and the readings (Exodus 12.1-4, 11-14 and 1 Corinthians 11.23-26), through the act of taking Communion, through the celebration of the Supper, and through the stripping of the altar at the end of all its "clothes". This signified the total isolation of Jesus in the Garden. They even took away the kneeling carpets at the rail, the Cross and lowered the lights. The Minister and a few stayed on until midnight reading the Gospel and praying, to signify "watching with Him" in Gethsemane. I came home to write this record of my astonished thoughts. It was indeed a "night of nights".

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