Friday, April 10, 2009

The Great Litany at Maundy Thursday Vigil  

From two to three this morning I served on the Maundy Thursday Vigil today at Saint Stephens in the Field, the local Episcopal church I attend.

Maundy Thursday is the day Jesus instituted the Eucharist and was arrested, according to the Bible and tradition. Rather than a Maundy Thursday service, Saint Stephen's holds a vigil from evening to the time of the Crucifixion. Someone is in the church all hours of the night.

There's no way to know exactly when Jesus was arrested, but I've always thought the hour of darkness was pretty close to two to three AM, so that's a special time for me. Being arrested, humiliated and crucified for essentially telling the truth and trying to do the right thing would be terrible.

The first thing I read during my part of the vigil was from the Great Litany from the Book of Common Prayer; I thought it was apropos in our current time of trial:
We humbly beseech thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon
our infirmities; and, for the glory of your Name, turn from us
all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant
that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and
confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness
and pureness of living, to thy honor and glory; through our
only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then I read from the Bible, first another apropos passage from Sirach 21:8:
8: He that buildeth his house with other men's money is like one that gathereth himself stones for the tomb of his burial.

After that, I started reading the Passion from the Gospel of John, and then went on to read the remaining readings for Maundy Thursday: first from the Gospel of John, then from Exodus, then from the Psalms, then from 1 Corinthians.

I leave you with the close of the Maundy Thursday service:
Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with
you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.

I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have
loved you.

Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with
you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.

By this shall the world know that you are my disciples: That
you have love for one another.

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