My sense of vocation to priesthood is so bound up with the Sacrament of Holy Communion that to say I love presiding seems as daft as saying I love breathing. It is a necessary part of who I am. But different parts of the service continue to delight and surprise me – whether that most holy of connections of handing someone bread at the altar, the joy of praising God with outstretched arms, or the ablutions. Yes, the washing up afterwards.
Today, I was thinking as I went through my own Post Communion routine of pouring the water on to the patten (plate where bread was) and tipping it from patten to chalice, drinking it and wiping up afterwards. I wondered who washed up after the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, after that eventful Passover meal where Judas had slipped away, after Jesus had broken bread, and passed the cup. Jesus and the disciples went to Gethsemane, where Peter, Andrew, James and John couldn’t keep their eyes open as Jesus prayed his anguished prayer “Your will, not mine, be done”.
And somewhere, in that house with the upstairs room, someone had gathered up the remains of the food, the drink, the plates and cups. Someone was working, and perhaps wondering what tomorrow would bring….
There is a beautiful precision in clearing up at the end of Holy Communion. There is a satisfaction of leaving everything clean and tidy. I wonder if the original washer-upper felt the same, or whether they too spent an anguished night, hearing of Jesus’ arrest. We may share the same task of clearing up, but like so many things, we’ll never know.