Thoughts for Maundy Thursday

Thought for Maundy Thursday from Deborah Kirk

The Last Supper (1592-1594)  : Jacopo Robusti ‘Tintoretto’  

This is one of my favourite pictures of the Last Supper.  It is perhaps not how we usually imagine the Upper Room to be.  Instead of privacy and intimacy, there is busyness and activity, servants preparing food, serving girls waiting at the table, pots being washed, and even animals adding to the scene.  You can almost hear the chatter and smell the smoke and the food. 

Jesus is at the centre of the painting, and easily identifiable by the light and colour around him.  The smoke from the lamps shifts and changes into angelic shapes which hover in his reflected glory.  This is ‘Emmanuel, God with us’.  Meanwhile the servants continue with their tasks, missing the significance of the moment.  Only the servant girl nearest to Jesus seems to be watching what he is doing.

In spite of the activity in the room, Jesus radiates a stillness which focusses the disciples’ attention on his actions, and as we watch, we realise this is the moment when he says ‘This is my body’. 

We are left with the reminder that the divine presence of Christ is to be found among the ordinary and the everyday things of this world.  We know it, of course, but we need to hear it again for this unusual and worrying time.  The words we share over telephone or garden fence, the listening ear in time of crisis, the little services we do for others, even the meals we eat with respect and thoughtfulness for the source of the nourishment, each reflect that divine presence in our midst.

I am reminded of a lovely prayer from the Celtic tradition, attributed to David Adam:

Be gentle when you touch Bread.

Let it not lie uncared for, unwanted, so often Bread is taken for granted.

There is such beauty in Bread,

Beauty of sun and soil, beauty of patient toil.

Wind and rain have caressed it, Christ often blessed it.

Be gentle when you touch Bread.

We may not be able to pass bread and wine to one another tonight as we would usually do, but we find The Emmanuel present at every meal, at every breaking of the bread.