Maundy Thursday of is a day contrasts.
Renewal of Ordination Vows and the Blessing of the Oil
At Southwark Cathedral – as in most other Anglican Cathedrals – part of the preparation for the Triduum a service of Renewal of Ordination Vows and the Blessing of the Oil took place in the morning. Bishop +Christopher spoke directly to the clergy in his diocese. He tied this into his series of sermons in Holy Week (Journey to Jerusalem).
There then followed the renewal of vows. At Southwark the Chair of the House of Laity asked the renewal questions to the Bishops. In contrast at St Paul’s Cathedral (across the river) a 12 year old chorister was selected for this role. I must admit I like the idea of a young person posing the renewal vows to the bishops. +Christopher then addressed the priests asking them to renewed their vows. Next came the deacons, and this is were I think most of those ordained forget that whether they are bishops or priests – they are all Deacons. I could not see for definite, however when the vows were renewed of the Deacons there were only a few voices, but it did include +Richard (of Kingston).
The blessing of the oils followed. Looking at the practicalities, instead of a large flagon (or flagons) of oils being blessed, a large wicker basket with phials of oil is brought up with a flagon for each of the oils (Oil of Sick, Oil of Catechumens, Oil of Chrism). This makes distribution far easier after the service. Elsewhere I have since multitude of various containers being proffered (in a scrum to get oil) leading to some parishes getting far more than is needed, and on one occasion, all the oils being taken leaving a cathedral with none (the bishop having to bless more!).
The music during the service was provided by the Girl’s Choir and the Lay Clerks under the direction of Stephen Disley.
Mass of the Last Supper
This moving service started in the similar manner as a regular Sunday Eucharist with the Bishop of Southwark. Music was provided by the Boy’s Choir and Lay Clerks under the direction of Peter Wright. One exception was after the sermon by +Christopher, he then removed his chasuble and wrapped a towel round himself to wash the feet of some members of the congregation, recalling the actions of Jesus in the Upper Room during the Last Supper. Whilst this symbolic act was performed, the choir sang Ubi caritas by Duruflé.
However after the communion, the mood become more sombre. +Christopher now additionally vested in a Humeral Veil carried the sacrament is taken in solemn procession to the Lady Chapel (in the Retrochoir) whilst the choir sang Of the glorious body telling at the west end. Earlier in the year the ashes of former Dean, Colin Slee were interred in the Lady Chapel.
Then whilst the choir sang Psalm 22, which Jesus quoted on the cross and whilst that is going on, the church is stripped of all its adornments – candles, soft furnishings, linen. The whole church is stripped quite bare as we remember Jesus having everything stripped from him when he was arrested. There will be no more sacraments now, Jesus has been taken from us.
The Deacon intoned verse 18 from the Psalm – They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture – and the cathedral is left in darkness, with only a few candles lighting the way to the Altar of Repose where the remaining sacrament is kept.