Many churches partake in a ‘Labyrinth’ on Maundy Thursday. People are invited to walk through pathways, usually in a church/hall, and pause at certain ‘stations’ to contemplate on Jesus’ journey through this day.
Well, I cannot get out to a church, and I reckon a fair few of you can’t, either. So instead of going to the Labyrinth, I’m attempting to bring the Labyrinth to you. And to me. I hope that your journey through this virtual Labyrinth brings you the peace and time of reflection on this Maundy Thursday that you crave. I don’t know about you, but my Facebook feed makes me feel sad on days like these, sad because once again, I am on the outside looking in, I am the excluded one, I am the one not caught up in the busyness and the creativity and the community of all that Holy Week can bring.
But why should I be on the outside looking in? I have decided to turn the perspective around, to no longer dwell on all that cannot be, to find instead the fullness of what this day can bring. As I experience fairly hideous chest pain, surely I can turn this round to reflect on the hideous pain Jesus experienced – not only on the cross, but on that day before Good Friday?
So, here we are then. The Virtual Labyrinth.
A prayer labyrinth is not a maze, more of a journey with twists and turns, and no dead ends. There is only one way in, and one way out.
The winding path symbolizes a journey. As you negotiate the twists and turns take time to sink yourself into the mystery of Christ and his last days on earth. Think of the journey inwards to the centre as a time to let go of anything you need to let go of, the centre as a time to connect with God and the journey outwards as a time to take on the peace and protection you need to walk forwards into your life and to share that journey with others.
So we walk into the Labyrinth. We pause at the first bend where we think upon the Noise. The noise, the busyness of life, the fast paced race all around us (and sometimes not including us). Think about all the messages and information that fill our lives, competing for attention, clamouring in every day. Now is the time to turn the noise off, to pause, to shake it away.
We step forwards to another twist. We collect up our worries, our doubts, our grief, and our pain. Jesus says ‘come to me, all who are burdened, and I will give you rest.’ We lay our burdens down. You can visualise taking a bag from your shoulders and putting it on the floor, or taking off heavy shoes, or you can write down your worries on some paper and fold it up, not necessarily to throw away, but to put aside.
It may feel strange, this letting go, and not knowing what the path ahead holds. Try to trust the path, and to trust the God who you are seeking. We are taking steps, what takes place in our mind and spirit as authentic as anything our bodies can – or cannot – do.
We keep on walking, round corners, round twisting paths. Perhaps it would be helpful to begin to physically breathe in God’s presence. Slow down your breathing, and intentionally breathe out the remains of what you didn’t quite manage to leave behind at the last stop. Breathe out that niggling voice, that continuing pain. And breathe in God. Breathe out – Breathe in. Breathe out – Breathe in.
So we come to the centre.
It’s time to sit down (I am sitting already, but taking a virtual comfy armchair in my head) and reflect.
Start by imagining a waterfall.
Psalm 42:7 says
‘Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls, all of your waves and breakers have swept over me.'
Imagine immersing yourself in the waterfall, the rushing waters being God’s love, pouring over you, quenching your pain, cleaning your soul.
Then take this candle.
– imagine it’s the only light in the darkness. Live it, breathe it. You may want to light a ‘real’ candle at this point. Virtual is good though!
We think on these words from John 13.
‘3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.’
Reflect on this verse and this image. Immerse yourself in the scene – in the sights and sounds. In the awe and mystery amidst the normalcy of the Passover Supper. Jesus is washing your feet. Perhaps you would like to take a bowl and gently wash your own feet at this stage.
There now follows a series of verses from these Maundy Thursday passages, from John 13 and Mark 14. We can take as much time as we need over each one, intentionally breathing in God’s presence as we take the words in. Each section is accompanied by an image to contemplate upon in addition to the words.
***When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
***32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
***37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
***43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him.
Are we able to watch with Jesus, this day and night? Can we, in the centre of this labyrinth, put aside our wants, desires, our very lives, to watch, to wait?
The centre of the Labyrinth. The centre of history.
When we are ready, we begin to walk out of the Labyrinth. We take with us our tears, our shame, our peace, all that we have found and experienced as we journeyed through. We keep breathing in God’s presence. We take the memory of Jesus washing feet and the waterfall of grace washing us clean.
We come to the place we laid down our fears, our worries, pain, doubt, grief. Perhaps we decide to pick up our folded piece of paper and keep it with us once again, yet with all that we have contemplated here superimposed upon it. The pain is with us, and yet so is the mystery. So is the waterfall, the breakers. So is the agonised Jesus. Where does that leave our pain?
So we take it upon us, and we take it outwards. We walk to the Noise again. Can we take less of it back upon ourselves than we came in with? Can we leave some of the messages, some of the script, shaken off at our feet as we leave? Can we replace it with all that we breathed in, and with the mourning that comes with the watching and waiting, for now? Can we see all the ground we walk upon as holy ground, as stepping out with all we have inside, as taking it with us?
We leave the Labyrinth.
So, who said we’re not able to join in? We’re far from the outside. We’re on the inside, looking out. We’re watching and waiting with Jesus, we’re holding our pain and we’re living in the great mystery of Maundy Thursday, today.