Maundy Thursday Agapé Meal at Home
An Order for an Agapé Meal at Home
For Maundy Thursday
April 9, 2020
Note: This service was prepared by The Rev. Josephine Robertson, All Saints Episcopal Church, Bellevue, WA and distributed by the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. I have adapted it specifically for St. Matthew’s usage. Instructions are written in red italics.
Concerning the Service
“The celebration of festal meals is not appropriate during Holy Week. In Christian tradition such festivities take place only after the Lenten fast has been completed by the celebration of the Great Vigil –– which is the Passover Feast of Christians –– and the reception of Easter Communion. … A meatless meal is to be preferred. The setting should be austere and the foods sparse and simple. Appropriate foods include soup, cheese, olives, dried fruit, bread, and wine.”
- Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, p. 84
This service was designed for use in the home, around the dinner table (whatever shape that takes). If possible, the table should be set with the best the house has to offer. A fine tablecloth perhaps, flowers, and the best place settings. We sit down to feast with God and for that we bring our best. If your best is a folding table and takeout containers God will be as honored by that as fine silver and crystal.
This service draws from the Eucharistic tradition, but it is not a sacramental meal. We call it Eukharistía: Ancient Greek meaning “gratitude, giving of thanks.” And this we can and should do whenever we share the bounty of the earth!
All Christians are called to bless and while this meal is not sacramental it includes blessings of the food and drink shared, and the people gathered. You can use any bread you have available.
Similarly, while the service mentions wine you should use whatever beverage makes sense for you and those gathered. In the ancient world wine was safe (when the water was not) and was a staple. Using a beverage that is a staple of your dinner table is always acceptable.
The service has been written so that various parts can be shared out among those present, don’t be afraid to let children read and lead! Each part is either meant to be read by a single person, or by all. This is indicated with “One” or “All.” The “One” parts may be shared, and a single leader is not required. While this service assumes a small gathering it can, when necessary, be done by an individual who while physically alone is nevertheless gathered in spirit with the rest of the church this night or by people each alone connected to others online.
One candle (called the Christ candle) should be placed on the table and lit before the service begins, it will remain lit throughout. If possible, a candle should be given to each person present.
As the service concludes with the reading of Psalm 51 and the clearing of the table, some may wish to strip their household “altar” by removing icons and crosses from the walls as a reminder of the starkness of Good Friday to come.
If desired, after the conclusion of the service, flowers, potted plants, beloved objects, the Christ candle or other lights might be placed on the table. A place to watch with Jesus (and a reminder of the Garden of Gethsemane) can be made with these things and those who feel so called spend an hour there at some point in the night reading scripture, praying, or simply keeping silent vigil.
All: We begin by washing, as we were washed in our baptism. We cleanse our hands as we were cleansed in the waters of new birth. We do this not because we are afraid, but because we were commanded to love: and to cleanse our hands, and gather in spirit, is how we love the vulnerable, whom Jesus loved. May we be instruments of love. May the sacrifices we make be for the good of our human family near and far.
Each person present then washes their hands thoroughly with soap and water. Once washed each should help with setting the table as they are able. The food should be set out in the middle with bread and wine [or other beverage] and other good things. When all is ready those present take their places at the table and the one designated begins.
If a candle is available for each person they may now take their candle, light it, and place it at their place at the table. They may say the following:
One: As Jesus traveled he spread light wherever he went, light that could not be extinguished. Tonight, I light my candle in honor of all who follow Jesus.
When all have taken their places at the table.
One: Dear Friends, tonight is a holy night. Tonight, we join with Christians around the world as we remember the last night our Lord spent with his friends. We gather around a table, and with all those who remember tonight. Though we are dispersed, we are together, in spirit and in truth.
Tonight, is about friendship, and love. But not all the stories tonight are happy, because suffering and evil are real. So tonight, we will eat a meal, we will share stories, and we will pray together.
Blessing of the Meal
This portion of the service may be used at any time a meal is shared among Christians. It follows the shape of the last supper, and therefore will sound familiar and much like the Eucharist. However, a priest is not required because the elements are not consecrated. They are however blessed, something all Christians are called to do.
The one who blesses the bread takes the bread and holds it where all may see it.
One: On the night that Jesus gathered with his friends he took bread and he blessed it and shared it with his friends, for God who loves us, feeds us. As God’s people ate manna in the wilderness and were satisfied, so we share this bread with Christ, and with one another. May it be for us bread from heaven, strength for our bodies, balm for our souls, and may it empower us to be Christ’s body in this world.
The bread is passed around the table for all to take all they want.
The one who blesses the wine or other beverage then takes the wine (in a bottle or carafe) and holds it where all may see it.
One: On the night that Jesus gathered with his friends he took wine and he blessed it and shared it with them. For the God who made us delights in us, and gives us good gifts to delight our tongues, and give joy to our souls. As Jesus offered the Samaritan wom an water that will not fail, so Jesus offers us the same. May this be for us the holy drink of heaven, and may it wash us of sin and quench the thirst of our souls.
The wine or another beverage is then poured out into each person’s cup, a generous amount!
The whole company together then blesses the rest of the meal, saying together.
All: Holy and lifegiving God, we thank you for the bounty of your Creation laid before us. We ask you to bless it, that it may be to us a holy meal. We give thanks for all those who labored so that it might sustain us, and we ask that through it you would give us the strength to be your good stewards; to care, and tend your creation, and to care especially for our siblings, all the people of this world. Tonight, be with all the members of our community who we love and miss, those who cannot be here with us to share this meal. We ask these things by the grace of Jesus Christ our Brother and the Holy Spirit our friend and guide. Amen.
The Scripture Meditations
The meal should be enjoyed by all. As feels appropriate the first story should be read by a member of the gathered group while the rest continue their meal. Conversation and questions are encouraged, for this is a gathering of friends.
Jesus’ Great High Priestly Prayer
A Reading from the Gospel According to St. John (17:1-26)
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
As the meal is concluded and the dishes are still on the table the second story is read.
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
A Reading from the Gospel According to St. John (18:1-11)
After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “For whom are you looking?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he”, they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “For whom are you looking?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
One: Our dinner is over, the waiting begins. Tonight, Jesus was alone, under arrest, and awaiting his death. Tonight, his friends were alone with their guilt, shame, and fear.
One: We are missing our normal routines, our communities, and friends. Many are alone, isolated, and afraid, but Jesus waits with us all tonight, even as we wait with him. Jesus knows what loneliness feels like, what fear tastes like. Jesus knows the heart break of being alone when you want most to be with people you love. Tonight, we hold vigil with the sick, the fearful, the lonely, and with all who risk their own lives to protect and care for ours.
One: We are invited to clear away the dishes, and clean up the remains of our meal in silence, and with prayer. Tonight, this table was our altar, and this home our sanctuary. Let us cleanse it of all that has come before this moment: of our anxiety, our worry, our sorrow, and our shame.
The table may then be cleared by all present, as each is able. Each person extinguishes their candle. The Christ candle may be left lit. One person may be designated to read Psalm 51 while the table is cleared, and table cloth or decoration removed. The table is then wiped down with the clean damp cloth, and dried.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, *
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you only have I sinned *
and done what is evil in your sight.
5 And so you are justified when you speak *
and upright in your judgment.
6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
a sinner from my mother’s womb.
7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
and will make me understand wisdom secretly
8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
10 Hide your face from my sins *
and blot out all my iniquities.
11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
and renew a right spirit within me.
12 Cast me not away from your presence *
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
13 Give me the joy of your saving help again *
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *
and sinners shall return to you.
15 Deliver me from death, O God, *
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.
16 Open my lips, O Lord, *
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
17 Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, *
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.
18 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
19 Be favorable and gracious to Zion, *
and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
20 Then you will be pleased with the appointed sacrifices, with burnt-offerings and oblations; *
then shall they offer young bullocks upon your altar.
When the table is cleared all gather together for a final prayer and invitation to keep vigil.
One: Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.
If desired, those gathered in that place should bring flowers, potted plants, beloved objects, the Christ candle or other lights. A place to watch with Jesus (and a reminder of the Garden of Gethsemane) can be made with these things and those who feel so called spend an hour there at some point in the night reading scripture, praying, or simply keeping silent vigil.