Maundy Thursday

Today’s Maundy Thursday. For those of us who sing in a church choir, it’s the start of a marathon comprising of the celebrations for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter itself. In my country the latter takes two days called ‘first’ and ‘second’ Easter Day.

Today we commemorate the Last Supper, which is a high feast, but which ends on a sombre note, as the events leading up to what we commemorate tomorrow -Jesus’ crucifixion and death- actually started on Thursday night.

In my church the end of the service is marked by removing all candles, flowers, altar cloths, crucifixes, lectionaries and all other decoration until the whole altar area is stripped completely bare.

While the acolytes do this, two singers -I’ll be one of them- sing Psalm 22 (21 in some bibles) in Latin recto tono, which means we have to sing it using one single tone without any variation (and taking great care we do not lower our pitch, which is damn difficult!).

Psalm 22 is the psalm that Jesus recited while hanging on the cross. This is not mentioned as such in the gospels, but they do refer to it. In Mat 27:46 it says: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

This is the first line of Psalm 22 in Aramaic. But first lines may also be titles, and ‘cry’ in Aramaic  – קרא – also means ‘recite’. Instead of a desperate cry from a dying man, it may very well refer to Jesus reciting Psalm 22, which starts out as the cry of a man tortured and forsaken by all, but ends as a prayer of hope and trust.

Regardless if Jesus was ever at all capable to recite anything while hanging on His cross (which basically suffocates you), singing this psalm gets to me every year. Not just the lament, but the hopeful part as well, because you know that the part you’re singing is that of a dying man, who trusts despite all suffering and hopes against all desperation.

Deus, Deus meus, respice in me: quare me dereliquisti?
longe a salute mea verba delictorum meorum.
Deus meus, clamabo per diem, et non exaudies;
et nocte, et non ad insipientiam mihi.
Tu autem in sancto habitas, laus Israël.
In te speraverunt patres nostri;
speraverunt, et liberasti eos.
Ad te clamaverunt, et salvi facti sunt;
in te speraverunt, et non sunt confusi.
Ego autem sum vermis, et non homo;
opprobrium hominum, et abjectio plebis.
Omnes videntes me deriserunt me;
locuti sunt labiis, et moverunt caput.
Speravit in Domino, eripiat eum:
salvum faciat eum, quoniam vult eum.
Quoniam tu es qui extraxisti me de ventre,
spes mea ab uberibus matris meæ.
In te projectus sum ex utero;
de ventre matris meæ Deus meus es tu:
ne discesseris a me,
quoniam tribulatio proxima est,
quoniam non est qui adjuvet.
Circumdederunt me vituli multi;
tauri pingues obsederunt me.
Aperuerunt super me os suum,
sicut leo rapiens et rugiens.
Sicut aqua effusus sum,
et dispersa sunt omnia ossa mea:
factum est cor meum tamquam cera liquescens in medio ventris mei.
Aruit tamquam testa virtus mea,
et lingua mea adhæsit faucibus meis:
et in pulverem mortis deduxisti me.
Quoniam circumdederunt me canes multi;
concilium malignantium obsedit me.
Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos;
dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea.
Ipsi vero consideraverunt et inspexerunt me.
Diviserunt sibi vestimenta mea,
et super vestem meam miserunt sortem.
Tu autem, Domine, ne elongaveris auxilium tuum a me;
ad defensionem meam conspice.
Erue a framea, Deus, animam meam,
et de manu canis unicam meam.
Salva me ex ore leonis,
et a cornibus unicornium humilitatem meam.
Narrabo nomen tuum fratribus meis;
in medio ecclesiæ laudabo te.
Qui timetis Dominum, laudate eum;
universum semen Jacob, glorificate eum.
Timeat eum omne semen Israël,
quoniam non sprevit, neque despexit deprecationem pauperis,
nec avertit faciem suam a me:
et cum clamarem ad eum, exaudivit me.
Apud te laus mea in ecclesia magna;
vota mea reddam in conspectu timentium eum.
Edent pauperes, et saturabuntur,
et laudabunt Dominum qui requirunt eum:
vivent corda eorum in sæculum sæculi.
Reminiscentur et convertentur ad Dominum universi fines terræ;
et adorabunt in conspectu ejus universæ familiæ gentium:
quoniam Domini est regnum,
et ipse dominabitur gentium.
Manducaverunt et adoraverunt omnes pingues terræ;
in conspectu ejus cadent omnes qui descendunt in terram.
Et anima mea illi vivet;
et semen meum serviet ipsi.
Annuntiabitur Domino generatio ventura;
et annuntiabunt cæli justitiam ejus
populo qui nascetur, quem fecit Dominus.

One Response to “Maundy Thursday”

  1. It may be relevant that the argument in your article, that the Jesus of the Gospels did not die in desperation, was – as far as I know – first proposed by the Jewish theologian Pinchas Lapide.

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