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April 9th, 2009

Maundy Thursday – The Thursday before Easter

The Last Supper 01

Today is Maundy Thursday – The Thursday before Easter. It is the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the Holy Eucharist. Today is also called Holy Thursday.

During the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and wine and shared them with his disciples. We continue to share bread and wine as part of their worship in church. The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The name ‘Maundy’ is derived from the Latin word “mandatum”, meaning a commandment. Jesus Christ, at the Last Supper, commanded: – ‘And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ John 15:12

In Roman Catholic churches the anthem Mandatum novum do vobis (a new commandment I give to you) would be sung on Maundy Thursday. Maundy coins are specially minted for the occasion and are legal tender and, as they are produced in such limited numbers, they are much sought after by collectors.

We commemorate the Last Supper in a special Eucharist. In some churches, they may wash each other’s feet. After the service the altar is stripped. Some Christians may hold an all night vigil in church, remembering Christ’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Prayer for Maundy Thursday

Dear God, On this day when you were turned over to face death on the cross, let us remember that only you are God and only you can say what is bad or good. Help us to remember the evil done this night lead to the greatest good that man kind could ever have wished. That it is only our ignorance which makes us condemn those who killed you instead of praising them as the heroes who made Easter possible. Only you know how you perceive them, and us. So help us to know that we are here to love you and one and other. Not condemn, just love. The love that Jesus showed us every day of his life and death. Amen.

April 5th, 2009

The Sunday before Easter – Palm Sunday

palm-sunday-jesus-on-ass palm-sunday-jesus-on-donkey

Today is the Sunday before Easter and the first day of Holy Week.

On this day, we celebrate Palm Sunday – – – The day on which Jesus made his public entrance into Jerusalem, on a donkey.

The Entrance into Jerusalem

Jesus had long tried by direct teaching to impress upon his apostles and his disciples that his kingdom was not of this world, that it was a purely spiritual matter; but he had not succeeded in this effort. Now, what he had failed to do by plain and personal teaching, he would attempt to accomplish by a symbolic appeal.

Accordingly, right after the noon lunch, Jesus called Peter and John, and after directing them to go over to Bethphage, a neighboring village a little off the main road and a short distance northwest of Bethany, he further said: “Go to Bethphage, and when you come to the junction of the roads, you will find the colt of an ass tied there. Loose the colt and bring it back with you. If any one asks you why you do this, merely say, `The Master has need of him.'”

And when the two apostles had gone into Bethphage as the Master had directed, they found the colt tied near his mother in the open street and close to a house on the corner. As Peter began to untie the colt, the owner came over and asked why they did this, and when Peter answered him as Jesus had directed, the man said: “If your Master is Jesus from Galilee, let him have the colt.” And so they returned bringing the colt with them.

By this time several hundred pilgrims had gathered around Jesus and his apostles. Since mid forenoon the visitors passing by on their way to the Passover had tarried. Meanwhile, David Zebedee and some of his former messenger associates took it upon themselves to hasten on down to Jerusalem, where they effectively spread the report among the throngs of visiting pilgrims about the temple that Jesus of Nazareth was making a triumphal entry into the city. Accordingly, several thousand of these visitors flocked forth to greet this much-talked-of prophet and wonder-worker, whom some believed to be the Messiah. This multitude, coming out from Jerusalem, met Jesus and the crowd going into the city just after they had passed over the brow of Olivet and had begun the descent into the city.

Before they started, the Alpheus twins put their cloaks on the donkey and held him while the Master got on. As the procession moved toward the summit of Olivet, the festive crowd threw their garments on the ground and brought branches from the near-by trees in order to make a carpet of honor for the donkey bearing the royal Son, the promised Messiah. As the merry crowd moved on toward Jerusalem, they began to sing, or rather to shout in unison, the Psalm, “Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed be the kingdom that comes down from heaven.”

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Ceremonies of the day

In the Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches, ceremonies of the day are the blessing and distribution of crosses made from palm leaves and the recitation of one of the three synoptic accounts of the Passion. Many wear crosses made of the palm.

palm-sunday-ceremony

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hands_in_prayer Palm Sunday Opening Prayer   hands_in_prayer

Almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you sent your Son to be born of woman and to die on a cross, so that through the obedience of one man, estrangement might be dissolved for all men. Guide our minds by his truth, and strengthen our lives by the example of his death, that we may live in union with you in the kingdom of your promise. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 25th, 2009

March 25 – The Feast of the Annunciation

Mary and Angel - Annunciation

The feast of the Annunciation marks the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he told her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is celebrated on 25 March each year.

More importantly, since it occurs 9 months before the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, the Annunciation marks the actual incarnation of Jesus Christ – the moment that Jesus was conceived and that the Son of God became the son of the Virgin.

The festival celebrates two things:

1. God’s action in entering the human world as Jesus in order to save humanity
2. Humanity’s willing acceptance of God’s action in Mary’s freely given acceptance of the task of being the Mother of God

The Annunciation and the liturgy:

The story of the Annunciation has produced three important liturgical texts, the Ave Maria, the Angelus, and the Magnificat.

1. The angel’s greeting to Mary, which is traditionally translated as “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” (in Latin Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum) is the opening of the Ave Maria, and a part of the Rosary prayers.

2. The Angelus consists of three Ave Marias, together with some additional material. It is said three times a day in the Roman Catholic Church.

3. The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is the poem with which Mary responds to the Annunciation and celebrates the power of God.

Annunciation Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
Eternal Word,
You became Incarnate as man
in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
You, through whom the universe was created,
began your earthly course,
in the womb of a humble and chaste Virgin.
At the annunciation of this miracle,
Mary responded in faith:
“let it be done to me
according to your word.”
May we who are made new creatures
by your grace,
respond with such faith,
when you call us to your service. Amen

– – – prayer by David Bennett

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