Tonight we celebrate the events of the Last Supper in the upper room, where Christ gave his disciples instructions to be carried out in his name. The name Maundy came from the Latin word Maundatum, meaning commandment. The commandment we focus on today is the one Christ gave, “do this in remembrance of me.”
St. Justin the Martyr, who was born in about 100 AD, was one of the first Apologists of the Church. His writings focused mainly on convincing the Roman Emperors that Christianity would benefit the empire.
The members of the early Church kept the details of the faith closely guarded, as there was great persecution of the believers. Little was known of the Holy Eucharist outside of the Church, until Justin, who was martyred in Rome for the faith about 165 AD, wrote this in his first Apologia concerning the Lord’s Supper.
From the First Apology Chapter 66:
“And this food is called among us Ευχαριστια [the Eucharist, meaning Thanksgiving], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration (Baptism), and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, (Incarnation) had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone.”
One of the gifts of the priesthood is to “bless by the prayer of His word” so that the bread and wine are no longer common, but are changed in essence to the spiritual food and drink of new and everlasting life. This is the meaning of transubstantiation.
Tonight we remember that last Supper of our Lord with his disciples, which was also the first celebration of Holy Communion, and the agony of the Garden.
The repose of Christ in the Garden is represented by the Altar of Repose in our Narthex. Just as our Lord asked his disciples to remain awake with him for at least one hour, you are invited to sit with him on his Altar and share in his prayers to our Father.
If you want to read our Lord’s prayer to our Father, open your Bible to St. John 17.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.