Maundy Thursday at home

On this day, Thursday in Holy Week, we remember the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples, which may or may not have been a Passover meal. Only John’s gospel, however, tells how, after dinner, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, guys who wore sandals on unpaved dirt roads all the time, whose feet must have been filthy. This was a servant’s work, and Jesus gave his friends a new commandment (“mandatum” in Latin):

Love one another as I have loved you.

John 13:34

For this reason we churchy people do a strange thing: we wash one another’s feet. It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and I know lots of people who get pedicures first. It’s humbling and touching, too.

This year, we won’t be doing this in our churches, but it’s simple enough to do at home.

A Maundy Thursday Foot-Washing Service for Households

Ideally, this service takes place after the evening meal, and bed or quiet activity follows. If there are enough readers, please divide the parts into three as indicated. Have a basin of warm water and clean towels ready. Light a candle before you begin.

Reader: On the first Day of Passover, Jesus’s disciples said to him,

Peter: Where do you want us to go and get ready for the Passover meal?

Reader: So, Jesus sent Peter and John off, saying to them,

Jesus: When you go into the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters, and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks, “Do you have a guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. It is there you are to prepare.

Reader: As it grew dark, Jesus arrived with the twelve. During supper, Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Peter, who said to him,

Peter: Lord, are you going to wash my feet?

Jesus: You don’t understand what I am doing now, but you will understand later.

Reader: After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and returned to the table, Jesus said to them,

Jesus: Do you know what I have done to you? You call me “Teacher” and Lord, and you are right, because I am. If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you, too, must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: just as I have done, you also must do.

The washing of feet takes place now. An adult could first wash the feet of a child. Together, you might sing or listen to the Taizé chant, Ubi Caritas.

Jesus: I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

Prayers and thanksgivings may be offered now, for ourselves and others. Conclude with the following prayer:

Reader: Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and in the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer, p. 139)

Extinguish the candle. End the evening quietly.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.

Good Friday at home

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Yes, it’s really hard to talk about the crucifixion with children. Adults have enough trouble with it. Please don’t skip over the hard parts, though. We do know how the story ends. We call Good Friday ‘good’ because we are an Easter people. Even in the name we give it, we do not look at this day alone for the terrible thing that happened, that Jesus died on the cross. We look all the way to Sunday, when Jesus rose again. We pause on Friday to remember that Jesus, whom we love, died on a dark day when soldiers shamed him, nearly all his friends left his side, and he wasn’t even sure that God was with him. We tell the story of what happened that day because it is vital for our children to hear: Jesus was afraid, he suffered, he died . . . and God turned his fear, his suffering, and his dying into hope, wholeness, and new life.

We tell this story—our Christian story—over and over again because it tells us the truth: not that there is no darkness, but that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Remembering that gives us comfort and makes us bold, helps us encourage others and find goodness in the most difficult of days. We are Easter people because we have been to the cross and the grave and we know the promise God makes to us in Jesus: God’s power and grace can transform anything; God’s love is stronger than the cross, stronger than death itself.

You might bring some sweetness to this bitter day in a traditional way, by baking hot cross buns, a custom that dates to Saxon times. My husband makes this recipe

Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life. —John 19:30

When Jesus died that day on the cross

all creation together sighed, “This is a great loss.”

Time grew empty and the afternoon dark

as the light of the world had not even a spark.

The women stood by at a distance in tears

wondering what would become of their fears.

Fear not, the angels soon will say.

Jesus’s death has given us the way. Amen.

From Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J. S. Seamans, p. 62.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents, from which this post is adapted.

This post and other family resources for Holy Week are available as a free download from Church Publishing.