On this Maundy Thursday we celebrate the ‘new’ commandment (mandatum in Latin) of Jesus in John 13:34:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
While many Christian churches celebrate Maundy Thursday with a liturgical washing of the feet, the church I serve has a light supper and then a service of Tenebrae (Latin for ‘darkness’). After supper we enter the chapel and honor the coming darkness by extinguishing candles one by one.
It seems to me that honoring the ‘darkness’ is gospel for us all when we live in a culture that does everything in its power to deny hurt, struggle, depression, and death. According to the ads I see, we are all supposed to be outgoing, athletic, pretty, drive nice cars, and live in beautiful houses with lush yards… (and on it goes). We do not live in a world that honors the commitment of an 86 year old woman struggling to get her husband with Alzheimer’s to a doctor’s appointment following an X-ray.
As I was waiting for some X-rays on my back yesterday, I watched this woman grab her cane, her two bags, and then cajoled her somewhat confused husband into taking her arm so they could get to the doctor’s office. As she walked by, she looked at me, smiled, and said, “Ah, the golden years,” and off they went, sideways, out the door.
I will be holding that woman and her commitment to ‘the golden years’ in my heart as I extinguish the candles this evening, thankful that I serve a community willing to embrace ‘the darkness’ that is real life.