|Pen and Ink Reflections||
In many ways I hope that when you picked up your liturgy sheet tonight and saw the Renaissance picture of the Last Supper you saw nothing unusual. It’s Maundy Thursday – of course we’ll have a picture of the Last Supper. Some of the art historians among you however will I think have recognised that this is no ordinary painting. This is in fact – as far as we know - the first Last Supper by a female artist – Plautilla Nelli, a contemporary of Michelangelo, Titian and Tintoretto and influenced of course by Leonardo da Vinci who died some five years before her birth in Florence...
We are all washing a great deal at present aren't we - especially our hands!- singing happy birthday twice and counting our twenty seconds! Often on Maundy Thursday we concentrate on the gift of the Last Supper, the communion of bread and wine. But at this time it feels like the washing is the greater gift. Washing does three things - it cleanses, it comforts and it creates new life.
When Jesus knelt down and washed his disciples feet, he was turning all their expectations on their head. Instead of behaving like a king he was behaving like a slave and telling them to do so too. It was a beautiful, sensual and sacramental activity and we can remember it every time we wash our hands. Every time I take my bar of soap and lather up the suds, I feel more grounded, more connected to myself and to God. The water washes away the dirt, the germs, but it is deeper than that. There is a cleansing of soul that is possible too if we are open to it, as we let go of what we do not need and allow the water to take it away.
But the washing does not just cleanse. It also comforts. We all know the comfort of a warm bath or shower to tired muscles. The touch of water on skin is immensely comforting. Jesus knew he was soon to die and leave his disciples bereft. Yet he promised he would not leave them comfortless, but would send the Spirit, the Comforter. And on that last evening he gave them an experience of that comfort, in the gentleness of touch as he bathed their feet. We can feel it too as we pour water over our hands and experience its gentleness.
And finally the washing creates new life. As we know from washing down the leaves of our plants, washing helps them get the sunlight they need to grow and thrive. The same is true for us - when we are cleansed body and soul we are better able to receive the Light and our relationship with God grows. Jesus is the water of life and when we receive that water we are revived in hope and joy. So one way to do that this Maundy Thursday, is to wash your hands slowly and mindfully, relishing the cleansing, comforting, life-giving water and re-connecting there with the God who loves us and with everyone who is doing the same thing at this time.
by Penny Jones, for Maundy Thursday, 9 April 2020