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  • Writer's picturefrcrosthwait

Learning Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

I still remember the first time I saw the words "Good Friday" on a calendar. I wondered what it meant and what made that particular Friday good. Growing up in a Christian tradition, but not a liturgical one, we didn't observe or celebrate Good Friday. Easter Sunday stood alone. And when, some years later, our pastor introduced this thing called Maundy Thursday I thought, "no thanks." I was a teenager at the time, so things that meant more church attendance were of no interest to me.

I got over that, and wound up called to ministry and training at a seminary. I went to a fine seminary where God's Word is treasure and taught. But it did not observe Holy Week. One year, during Holy Week, on a Thursday evening while on break from class, I sat by this statue of Jesus washing Peter's feet. I remembered that it was Maundy Thursday, the very night memorialized by the sculpture.

I cover this short, personal history of learning about Maundy Thursday and Good Friday for two reasons. First, if you're like me and this is new to you, take heart. The patterns and habits of Holy Week can be learned. Moreover, they're very much worth learning. We practice patterns of worship in the imitation of Christ for the purpose of living each day in the imitation of Christ. That's why the foot-washing is part of the liturgy on Maundy Thursday.

There's also a second reason I mention learning the liturgy. If you've grown up in this tradition, then become a student of what you already know by repetition and familiarity.

What follows are a few introductory words about Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. These are taken from the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. I've also included a few playlists below.

CONCERNING MAUNDY THURSDAY (2019 BCP, 559) The Paschal mystery—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. The evening of Maundy Thursday begins the Triduum (the sacred three days). This service, together with Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and The Great Vigil of Easter, form a single liturgy; thus, the final blessing and dismissal is reserved for the conclusion of the Great Vigil. Maundy Thursday receives its name from the mandatum (commandment) given by our Lord: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). At the Last Supper, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and commanded them to love and serve one another as he had done. This day commemorates the Lord’s example of servant ministry, the institution of the Eucharist, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal leading to the crucifixion.


The Good Friday liturgy is the second part of the Triduum (the sacred three days). This most somber of all days is appropriately marked by fasting, abstinence, and penitence, leading us to focus on Jesus and the meaning of his Cross. Some churches do not use musical instruments or bells on this day. The church is often darkened. The bare, stark appearance of the church serves as a reminder of the solemnity and the sorrow of the day. The Lord of Life was rejected, mocked, scourged, and then put to death on the Cross. The faithful are reminded of the role which their own sin played in this suffering and agony, as Christ took all sin upon himself, in obedience to his Father’s will. By the Cross we are redeemed, set free from bondage to sin and death. The Cross is a sign of God’s never-ending love for us. It is a sign of life, in the midst of death.

In addition to the liturgies for the Triduum, there are many other edifying devotions appropriate for this day, including The Way of the Cross, Tenebrae, and The Seven Last Words.

(click below on the Spotify Playlist to listen)

Suggested for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday or both

Suggested for Saturday Evening or Easter Sunday or both

(and thru the Easter season)


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