Liturgy: derived from the Greek for “work of the people,” it is a set structure of words and form for public worship.
Maundy: derived from the Latin “mandatum” and related to the English word “mandate. This refers to the commandment Jesus gave on the final night of his life, at the Last Supper. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Prayer of the Day: OK, that’s more than one word, and I actually didn’t know what this was until a few day ago, when I realized my recording of the Prayer of the Day for the Maundy Thursday Liturgy was due and I had no idea what I was supposed to record.
I looked in all the places I knew to look to see if there was something in writing that would give me a clue, but I couldn’t find anything.
I finally had to ask my new colleague, Pastor Steve. He comes from a Lutheran background, so I figured he’d know. Also, he was the one who assigned it to me. So I figured he’d know.
“The Prayer of the Day?” he said. “It’s an ancient church practice that we are using in our Maundy Thursday service.”
“Oh, OK,”I said. “I’ll find it.”
Then I resumed my search for it. “If it’s an ancient church prayer, it should be easy to google,” I thought. So I typed “Maundy Thursday Prayer of the Day” in my search engine and waited for an ancient prayer to appear. I got all sorts of prayers and liturgies and Maundy Thursday service outlines. But I did not find anything that said, “Here is the ancient, traditional, beloved, said through the centuries Maundy Thursday Prayer of the Day.”
Sheepishly, I called my colleague back. “I’ve found a lot of Maundy Thursday prayers,” I said. “But I can’t figure out which one is the Prayer of the Day.”
I don’t know what he thought, but at least he was patient with me. “There is no specific ancient Maundy Thursday Prayer of the Day,” he said. “It is the practice of having a Prayer of the Day that is ancient. Not a specific prayer.” Then he directed me to the place where the 2021 Prayer of the Day for our 2021 Maundy Thursday liturgy was in the files of our Worship folder on line, and I found it. I recorded it. I uploaded it for the service.
Honestly, I have been a pastor for thirty years now, and sometimes I still feel like a beginner in how The Church has Done Things through the Centures. Well of course I am. So for all of you who wonder about stuff like liturgy and litany and lectionaries, you are not alone (and I hope I didn’t throw you with those last two words.)
Here we are in Holy Week, in the midst of the Great Triduum.
Triduum: from the Latin for three days, a period of three days of worship and prayer beginning on Maundy Thursday and culminating in Easter Sunday.
I have learned that Maundy Thursday services do not end with a benediction, because the worship begun on that night does not end until Easter Sunday. I have learned that a Tenebrae service concludes. in darkness.
Tenebrae: From the Latin for darkness, a worship service held during the three days preceding Easter.
I have learned, most of all, that the mystery of the meaning of this week, and especially of these three days in our Christian story is so profound that we have indeed developed centuries of tradition to try to hold it, and we still only touch the fringes.
And I have been reminded that I am a mystic.
Mystic: From the Greek for “hidden,” a mystic is one who seeks connection with an ultimately unknowable reality.
I believe the ultimate meaning of these holy days is unknowable, or at least can’t be summed up in words. It is simply to be experienced, embraced by, and open to something beyond me.
So in this holy week, I wish you a blessed Easter.
Easter: origin uncertain, related to the word East, or dawn. A Christian festival celebrating Resurrection.