The Last Supper

A reflection for Maundy Thursday

Reading: 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The East Window at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim.

A Reflection for Maundy Thursday

‘This do in Remembrance of me’

Today, I have again chosen the image of the east window in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim. Whereas yesterday we looked at a partial view of the window, concentrating on the character of Judas, today I have displayed the full window with the inscription, below, ‘This do in remembrance of me’.

It is fitting that this image should be our focus when we gather to worship in the cathedral, because the Eucharist is the central act of worship in the Christian church. From the very earliest time, the fledgling Christian church met to share in the meal which Our Lord left to his community. ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’ (Acts 2:46).

Looking at our beautiful stained glass window, let me highlight a few points. At the centre is the person of Christ. Almost all eyes are fixed on him. He is the central focus of our worship. His hands are gesturing towards the elements of bread and wine of which he told the disciples, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ and ‘this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’ (Luke 22:19-20).

The expressions on some of the disciples are thoughtful and sombre, because he went on to inform them ‘But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table’. The disciple beside Jesus, to our right, is pointing towards himself as though to ask ‘Surely not I?’ The enormity of what is about to happen has not yet struck them and they have not realised that Jesus will soon be taken from them. This is emphasised in the window by the storm clouds gathering in the view behind, over the rooftops of Jerusalem.

The artist who designed the window has incorporated elements from the different gospel writers. To the foreground is a bowl, a jug and the towel which Jesus tied around his waist when he washed his disciples’ feet. (John 13:1-20). When Jesus performed that act of humble service he told his friends that he did it to set them an example to follow ‘that you also should do as I have done for you’. When we come to a celebration of Holy Communion, we come as a community, to worship Christ. Our communion is with Him and with one another, as emphasised in The Peace which comes immediately prior to the communion. There is no place for division or disharmony within Christ’s community. He has left us the example of humble service and the new commandment to ‘love one another’. (John 13:34-35).

What you are unable to see in the photograph of the ‘Last Supper’ window is the biblical text across the bottom of the four panels. It is taken from the reading above, in the older English translation:

‘For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye shew the Lord’s death till he come’ I Cor. XI. 26.

Sadly, we are unable to join together this Maundy Thursday to commemorate the institution of The Lord’s Supper and it is likely to be some time until we can. Hopefully you will be able to participate from a distance on Easter Day when a recorded service will be posted on this website. Whenever and wherever we share in the Eucharist we proclaim Christ’s death – his act of self-giving love for us and for all humanity.

Lastly, we look forward in hope ‘till he come’, to that time when we share his banquet in the fullness of his eternal kingdom. Our celebration now is just a foretaste of what is to come.

Collect for Maundy Thursday

God our Father,
you have invited us to share in the supper
which your Son gave to his Church
to proclaim his death until he comes:
May he nourish us by his presence,
and unite us in his love;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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