Exodus 12: 1-4 (5-10) 11-14
Psalm 116 1, 10-17
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
John 13: 1-17, 31b-35
One of the most chilling scenes in all of Scripture, at least for me, comes within the context of tonight’s gospel reading from John. While we did not read it this evening, it forms a piece of the story of that first Maundy Thursday. Jesus and the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room. The foot washing has taken place, and Jesus speaks of the one who would betray him. Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me….So when [Jesus] had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot…. [After] receiving the piece of bread, [Judas] immediately went out. And it was night.
Whenever I read those four words, and it was night, a chill goes up and down my spine.
For our first century forebears, and perhaps for you as a child, night was a time of uncertainty, of loneliness, of isolation, of fear. Who has not, at one time or another, been afraid of the dark, been afraid of the night? Perhaps you still are. I know that as I child, I was. I was afraid of the darkness under my bed, and worse, the dark void of the open closet. I would whimper until one of my older brothers, with whom I shared my bedroom, would get up and close the closet door. Perhaps there is still something about the night that frightens you. Who has not been nervous walking down a dark street in the dead of night? I know that sometimes I am. Perhaps there is still something about the dark that frightens you.
Every time I hear these words, and it was night, a chill goes up and down my spine, because it reminds me that night still has the power to make us afraid.
Exodus 12:1-14/Psalm 116:1, 10-17/1 Corinthians 11:23-26/John 13:1-17, 31b-35
This evening we enter the highly charged atmosphere of the great three days, the culmination of our year: the Triduum. We celebrate events that have changed the history of the world and now change us. Today is “Maundy Thursday”: “Maundy”, from Latin “mandatum”, mandate or commandment. We hear the new commandment from the lips of Jesus, the “mandatum novum”: “love one another”.
His words come in the midst of a tense and complicated drama: a final meal together, conspiracy and betrayal, some unsettling words about body broken and blood poured out, a disciple reclining in the bosom of Jesus*, a puzzling ritual of a kind of baptism of feet, agony in a garden, an arrest, a trial…
Exodus 12: 1-4 (5-10) 11-14; Psalm 116: 1, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-17, 31b-35
As you know, during the year we welcome literally hundreds of guests at Emery House. They come from all over. Many come from some sort of religious background, but not all. Some come because it is their practice, others because they are curious. Some are drawn; others are sent. Some come for the quiet and silence, others for rest and healing conversation. A few find out about us from the internet and others are sent by a friend or their parish priest, while others have been long time friends of the Society. Most come to us by car, but some will fly long distances and arrive ultimately by bus.
Exodus 12: 1-4 (5-10) 11-14; Psalm 116 1, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-17, 31b-35
As you can imagine, incorporation into a monastic community is no easy thing. When a man comes into our community, suddenly everything, and I mean everything, is new and strange. The place is new and strange. The ways things are done are new and strange. And the people … well enough said about the people. One thing that is quickly evident is that every household and community has its quirks and monastic communities no less so than others. Sometimes those quirks are on full display for everyone to see, but on occasion those quirks are evident only to those “in the know” and are revealed to others only over time. Few of those sorts of quirks can be explained. Most of them must be intuited. And that is where the monastic rubber hits the road. Over time, a man either “gets it” and begins to fit in, and feels as if he fits in, or he doesn’t “get it” and never quite fits.
Tonight we have one of those community quirks on full display for everyone to see, and we either “get it” or we don’t. But there is a twist tonight, for unusually all the disciples “get it” this time, and most of us, even with hindsight don’t. We miss the enormous significance of what is taking place before our very eyes.