A reflection for Maundy Thursday 2020

Rev'd Mary Warner reflects on a powerful work of art depicting Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemene

I imagine we all have events in the church’s year the remembrance of which is particularly powerful for us. If those occur at this time of the year it will be very hard not to be able to remember together in church.  For me Maundy Thursday is one of those occasions. This Eucharist holds so much of intimacy. Not intimacy in the way that word is so often understood today but true intimacy which is the basis of all love. Intimacy as free and open communication. There are three significant moments of intimacy on this night. The washing of the disciple’s feet, the breaking and sharing of bread and wine, Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. In these events we find the Christian life encapsulated. A life of service, a life sustained by Christ’s body and blood shared together in community and a life of deep and honest prayer. How are we going to celebrate this day during lock-down?

One of the most powerful works of art depicting Jesus praying in the Garden is by Paul Gaugin


This is a self-portrait and that might tempt us to dismiss it, but that adds to the power of it. There is no doubting the despair being experienced by Jesus, the darkness contrasted with the white handkerchief underlines this. Here is a Christ who is indeed bearing our sorrows even to total despair and death. We feel we are looking at an extremely intimate moment between Jesus and his Father. We know that we to can come to God with our own weight of sadness and that of the world around us. We share this vigil with Christ, with one another and with all those who down the ages have not been able to celebrate this night because of persecution or war. As we experience the inevitable sense of depravation, we know that we are not alone. As we share in a service of prayer for our community and with the body of Christ may we come to a yet deeper intimacy with one another and with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.