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A Reflection for Maundy Thursday, April 2020
The Reverend Canon Catherine Ascah
St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Smiths Falls
The Father uttered
one Word
that Word was his Son
and he utters it everlastingly in silence
and in silence a soul
has to hear it.
St. John of the Cross

These timeless words are written in calligraphy on a card on my desk. I keep it where my
eye can always go to it. There is a primordial ring in these words. Here is the reminder
that the Word has been since the beginning, and that sometimes, to know the Jesus’
presence, there needs to be silence.
Maundy Thursday is one of my favourite liturgies of the Christian year. Don’t worry; I love
Easter too! But there is something deeply poignant in the words of scripture this night. The
story of the Passover in Exodus where deliverance by God is promised and the people are
commanded to be girded and ready for action when it came. Jesus washing his disciples
feet, all of their feet, the one who would betray him and those who would deny him, and
then taking his place at the table to tell them, “I give you this new commandment
(mandatum), that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one
another.” (John 13.34) The celebration of the Eucharist, when the words of the Eucharistic
Prayer are altered to read “At supper with them on this very night, he took bread...”
And then, after people return to their places, having been fed with the bread and wine side
by side, the soul searching sound of Psalm 22 or Matthew 26.30-46 recited by a single voice
as the church is stripped of her ornaments, the altar washed, the aumbry emptied of
reserved sacrament, the cross draped in black. At last, in the silence, the lights are
extinguished. And we all kneel or sit in the silence and in the dark.
I will shortly take myself into the church building tonight. I will be alone, save for the
communion of saints who pray and sing this night on the other shore. I will button my
cassock, read aloud the passage from John’s Gospel, and the I will begin to remove the
ornaments from the church. The candlesticks, the brass alms basins, the lectern and pulpit
falls, the rich, red silk frontal, the fair linens. I will open the aumbry and remove the
reserved sacrament. In due course, I will consume it. I will leave the aumbry’s door ajar.
I will wash the marble altar top, and I will drape the cross in black, setting the crown of
thorns upon it.
Then I will pray. I will pray in silence. I will pray for all in turmoil in these days, for all who
feel the darkness descending. I will pray for those who feel abandoned by God, and those
who think they have betrayed God and those who thought they were faithful until now. I
will pray for my parishioners, living saints if ever I have encountered any, who are
desperately missing worship yet staying connected to each other and keeping the faith. I
will pray for those who are afraid and those who are losing hope. I will pray for the medical
workers, the researchers, the government leaders, the shop clerks, the truck drivers, the
farmers, the first responders, the mail carriers and the garbage collectors.
Then I will turn out the lights. And I will leave the church in silence. Just as I entered it.

I will return tomorrow and hold vigil during the hours that our Lord hung on the cross.
While I do that, the saints of God will be packing and delivering meals to people in the
community who are struggling to feed themselves and feed their children. As they have
done three times a week, for the last three weeks. Below, the cheerful bustle of the strictly
limited number of volunteers. Upstairs, the silence.
And I will do this tonight and tomorrow because of my firm belief in what comes next. After
the silence of this night, after the silence of the tomb, there is resurrection. There is
The Father uttered
one Word
that Word was his Son
and he utters it everlastingly in silence
and in silence a soul
has to hear it.