The last week of Lent is known as Holy Week. It begins after Palm Sunday, and is a time when we reflect on and share in Jesus journey to the cross and tomb.
Maundy Thursday derives its name from the Latin phrase: Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos, the command Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper:
A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you
At this supper Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion, proclaiming the bread to be his body, broken for us, and the wine his blood, shed for us. On this holy and mysterious evening, Jesus also washed the feet of his disciples, demonstrating to them how they were to serve others.
At Bethlehem there is a reenactment the foot-washing ritual. However, the true climax of Maundy Thursday worship is the celebration of the Lord's Supper. This night is the 'anniversary' of the sacrament and therefore a memorable event.
After the sacrament has ended, the stripping of the altar takes place. The pastors and several assistants remove all vessels, crosses, books, candles, linens, paraments, banners, and other decorations from the altar and chancel area.
This ancient ritual is a powerful and dramatic reenactment of the Lord's humiliation at the hands of the Roman soldiers. As the altar is being stripped, Psalm 22 with its clear prophecies of Christ's suffering, is read. The bare altar is transformed from the communion table of Maundy Thursday into the tomb slab of Good Friday.
Good Friday commemorates the historical event of Christ’s suffering and sacrificial death for our sins on the cross. Together with Christ’s resurrection from the dead, celebrated on Easter Sunday, this is the very heart of our Christian faith. This is a solemn day and a time for reflection and repentance.