Holy Thursday: Flavors and Friends

As a latchkey kid I taught myself to cook during the afternoons I spent with my little brother after school. It started with scrambled eggs, pasta noodles and brownie mixes, and it eventually evolved into an art form. I am no good at drawing or music or dancing, so the refrigerator became my palate and the plate my canvas. I read cookbooks—not for recipes, but as inspiration for my kitchen improvisation. When I indulged fine restaurant cuisine, I picked apart tastes to identify the ingredients behind them. I would return to my kitchen and attempt to recreate the flavor combinations.

When I became a teenager, I began to host dinners—feasts—for my friends. Few things brought me as much joy as sharing fresh Seattle salmon, fruit-filled salads, and decadent desserts with them. My creative outlet was richer when it was shared with the ones I love.

Lent is often approached as a time of solemn reflection in remembrance of Christ’s suffering. And some people engage the season with such conviction about our obligation to reverent sacrifice that I feel guilty smiling around them during the forty days before Easter. But I when I look at the life of Jesus, particularly the Holy Thursday feast, I cannot help but question whether Jesus would have wanted us to celebrate the gospel with the rigid deprivation that so often defines the season of Lent. Perhaps my love for food colors my encounter with Maundy Thursday, but when I picture the Last Supper I have an image of one of the very things that makes me feel most joyful and alive: a great feast with friends! One of Jesus’ last days was spent engaging one of the great joys of the incarnation. So why do so many remember Jesus with only their sadness and gloom?

Now, surely, Christ cried, struggled, questioned, and suffered in those last days too. It wasn’t all flavors and friends. There is a time for those things in our lives and in our remembrance of Jesus’ time on earth. But, tonight, in remembrance of Jesus’ last days, I am going to dine on amazing food with the people I love most in this world. In memory of the Messiah, I am going to celebrate what I love most about this life. I will honor Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection by indulging the beauty of the life Jesus died for.

Let Good Friday be Good Friday. Tonight, it’s Holy Thursday.

Jessica Coblentz is a recent graduate of Santa Clara University where she studied Religious Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies.  She currently lives in Los Angeles where she works in young adult and campus ministries.  You can follow her online writing at http://www.jessicacoblentz.blogspot.com.

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3 thoughts on “Holy Thursday: Flavors and Friends

  1. You know, the Holy Thursday service I attended tonight was in line with what you’re writing about here. The priest gave a homily on how Jesus decided to spend His last night on earth “taking his friends out to a really good meal.” I had recently been doing some research to write up a short Passover piece for NewMoon.com, so I had a deeper appreciation of the true *feasting* the Seder meal implied. And I actually choked up during Mass — not because of the solemnity that will come tomorrow, but because Jesus must have acutely realized, on that night with His friends, just how *sweet* and wonderful life on this earth can be.

  2. I think it’s harder for me, because while the beginning of the liturgy is joyful, the end is really solemn. And to me, it’s important to do the mourning shtick. Not just on Friday, but the whole 40 days. It’s o.k. if that comes with laughter, but there are times when I feel that saying, Oh, be happy, Jesus’ death is a gift (not that you were saying that), is like telling someone in grief that they shouldn’t be crying — because the person wouldn’t want them to mourn. The survivors are left to put together the pieces of the puzzle of death while Jesus is not here. And I don’t think they were all joyful and stuff right after Jesus died, I’m sure they felt the tension.

    Although, my favorite Holy Thursday liturgy there is a meal before it — which is a parallel to the Eucharistic meal. So I do like the community aspect to all of it.

  3. I think that’s wonderfully appropriate Jessica! Sometimes we forget that Holy Thursday is supposed to be a sort of mix between anguish, sorrow and grief and happiness and joy. Holy Thursday, other then other solemn Feasts, is the only time that we sing the Gloria during the Mass or that church bells are allowed to be rung. This is probably because Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist and His Last Supper spent with His Apostles was indeed a joyous occasion. Of course for Him, it was joy perhaps clouded by the dismal anticipation of His Passion but it was still joyous!

    So, even though I do think that solemnity, grief, and sorrow do indeed have their time and place throughout Lent and Holy Week, Maundy Thursday is definitely a fitting time to be joyous in the midst of such a sorrowful occasion!

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