Thursday Evening Reflections
In this part of the Easter vigil we will follow the events of the night of the Passover supper, leading up to the arrest of Jesus.
As you read the account of the last supper in Reading 1 below, you may want to have some bread and wine/juice available, so that you can participate in eating and drinking these when you are prompted to during the reading.
As a way of preparing yourself for this journey, begin with 10 minutes of silent prayer (you can click on the link below if you want a 10-minute timer with a gong at the beginning and three gongs at the end)
The last supper took place during the Passover, which is a festival where the Israelites’ journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom is remembered and celebrated. It is expected that during the Passover celebration you bring to mind your own places of narrowness and captivity, and open them to the possibility of a new discovery of freedom and spaciousness. One of the liturgical prayers that is sometimes prayed includes the words, “From the narrows, I called out to God, and God answered me with expansiveness.”
It is also a festival of inclusivity, since it is not possible to begin the Passover supper without children to remove the leavened bread from the home, and women to light the ritual candles. So where we read the word "disciples" in the scripture passages, this is an inclusive phrase, referring to the whole community.
The following song is an invitation to the table of belonging:
Reading 1 - The Last Supper
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me." ...
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
[Eat the bread]
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
[Drink the wine]
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Spend some time in quiet reflection on this passage. When you are ready, respond in a time of prayer, using your own words, and then spend some time reflecting on the following questions:
Questions for reflection:
Bring to mind any areas where you feel trapped in narrowness and captivity. Hold these areas open in God's presence, inviting God to lead you on a journey to a new discovery of spaciousness and freedom.
Are there any areas where you have felt excluded, or have excluded others in some way? Can you hear the invitation, that all are invited to the table, into the spacious and loving Heart of God?
Henri Nouwen described that when Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, he summarized in these gestures his own life of being chosen, blessed at his baptism, broken on the cross, and given as bread to the world. Nouwen goes on to say that this is the sacred journey that we are invited into as followers of Jesus. What does it mean for you to be chosen, blessed, broken and given?
The following is taken from one of the Jewish passover liturgies, and is read at the time of the breaking of the unleavened bread. I invite you to read this as a prayer, and reflect on its meaning in your own life:
Some do not get the chance to rise and spread out like golden loaves of bread, sweet, warm, aromatic and soft. Rushed, neglected, not kneaded by caring hands, we grow up afraid that any touch might cause a break. There are some ingredients we never receive. Tonight, let us bless our cracked surfaces and sharp edges, unafraid to see our brittleness and brave enough to see our beauty. Reaching for wholeness, let us piece together the parts of ourselves we have found, and honour all that is still hidden.
Prayer after the wine:
Something opens our wings.
Someone fills the cup in front of us:
We taste only sacredness.
It is all grace.
Listen to the following song, The Bread of Life, by John Michael Talbot:
Reading 2: The Garden of Gethsemane
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.
Take 10 minutes for quiet reflection on this scripture passage, inviting the Spirit to breathe life into any images or phrases that have stood out for you.
The following video guides you through a time of prayer accompanied by images and music:
Listen to the following song, In the Garden, by Michael Card (click here to see the lyrics):
When you are ready, spend some time reflecting on the following questions:
Questions for reflection:
What was evoked in you as you read this passage of scripture? What might the Spirit be saying to you through this?
Are there any areas where you can echo the prayer of Jesus: "Yet not what I will, but what you will."
In this passage Jesus appeals to his disciples to remain with him, to watch and pray, and to not go back to sleep. Hear this as an invitation through this scripture, and echoed in the following Rumi poem:
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.
As you listen to the following Taize chant titled Stay with me, allow it to be an invitation for you to journey through this weekend in a prayerful, watchful way.