Though I am not a Catholic, I love the mystical practice of Holy Hour, tonight, Maunday Thursday, the eve of Good Friday.
The church is stripped of all decorations and flowers, the icons shrouded, beginning a time of loss: we descend into the emptiness that proceeds every resurrection.
Re-creation, like creation, comes "ex nihilo," out of the "formless void." (Genesis 1:2) This is no less true in the Biblical vision than in the Heart Sutra of Buddhism.
Yet in one corner of the hollow church, the Blessed Sacrament remains on an alter, in a monstrance surrounded by Easter lilies and candlelight, to represent the abiding presence of Christ-Consciousness. For the Seed Light of the inward Christ remains ever buried in the heart of loss, at the center of silence, awaiting the touch of the first full moon of Spring. (Easter is always set as the Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox.)
The alter of sacramental Presence is the remembrance of Jesus when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, on the night of his arrest by the political authorities. He was arrested for his revolutionary teachings of forgiveness, equality, and unconditional inclusiveness; for his daring to plant the radical vision of a Beloved Community, beyond racial, tribal, and religious division, one planetary family.
Tonight he implores his three closest disciples to "watch and pray with me." For the Master needs our companionship, no less than we need the Master's. The disciples fall asleep, for they represent our thinking, dreaming, and slumbering minds, while Jesus remains awake as the silent Witness, Turiya.
When he finds them asleep, Jesus sadly asks, "Could you not remain awake one hour with me?" This is the root of Holy Hour on Maunday Thursday. We sit in deep meditation for one hour before that alter of luminous fragrance, witnessing the Presence of Love in the heart of loss.
NOTE: The word 'Maunday.'
This was also the night of Jesus' Last Supper with the disciples. On this night he gave his new commandment: "Love one another..."
Most scholars agree that the English word maundy derives through the Middle English and Old French "mandé," from the Latin "mandatum," the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" (A new commandment I give unto you: Love one another, even as I have loved you.)