Maundy Thursday Service

“I give you a new commandment:
love one another.” 
(John 13: 34, The Jerusalem Bible)

Jacopo Tintoretto (1519-1594) “Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet,” Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (Spain)

Edith is singing The Old Rugged Cross,
singing loud, sometimes on key,

hers the only voice rising
from the congregation,

cacophonous counterpoint
to the choir robed in scarlet

beneath the stained-glass window
of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

bearing a lamb across his shoulders,
gathering all the children of the world

to his side, those to whom
the kingdom of God belongs.

El Greco (1541-1614) “The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane,” National Gallery, London

She has slipped in to the service,
a pew at the back, behind the man

clutching his chest, not daring to lift his eyes,
praying, “God, be merciful,” God on his way

to that hill, place of the skull,
gathering all the poor, the crippled,

the lame, the blind, hungry and thirsty,
strangers, naked and ill, weary of self,

Aaron Burden

all hope gone except for falling at the feet
of Jesus, reaching to touch the hem

of his robe, risking a frisson of forgiveness
Edith knows and sings loud for the man

who once dared call down fire
on sinners; cast the first stone;

swear to die before desertion, denial.
She sings against the darkness, sings return

of the Christ candle, light unto the path
the man can now rise and walk.

Henry Julius