There’s no chocolate on Maundy Thursday, but there is bread and there is red wine, and those are part of the four main food groups (along with chocolate and melted cheese. Take that, food pyramid!)
Maybe things would have turned out better for Jesus had there been a little chocolate that night, but there wasn’t. Evidently chocolate is a Meso-American thing that the Mayans cultivated in the 6th century, so even if Jesus had wanted chocolate that last supper, he could not have had it. Bitter herbs and haroset it was. But that, and the unleavened bread, and the wine, were probably better prep food for what was about to come than chocolate would have been. Chocolate is celebratory, sumptuous, a little risque, even. Wine and bread are different.
For several Saturdays in the past few months, I have found myself at 5pm throwing in the towel and declaring that we are going out to dinner. Since we have made neither plans nor reservations, and since it is Saturday night, and since we have not acquired the services of a sitter, our options are limited. But included in those options is one of our favorites, a place called Milo’s, where they love our daughter and our business. Now the great thing about Milo’s is that almost as soon as you sit down, they bring you a basket of ciabatta and take your drink order, so for several Saturdays in the past few months, I have begun my recuperation from Saturday and my preparation for Sunday with bread and wine.
Of course, the Maundy Thursday story tells us that Jesus ended his meal with bread and wine, but I think those elements were preparational, too. Bread to lay the foundation, fill the stomach that would not be filled again. It’s simple, bread, not complicated, every day. An everyday thing before all that was extraordinary in its horror happened. And wine – wine to take the edge off, relax a little, give some perspective before all that was perspective-shattering took place.
The first time I ever served communion as an elder was on Maundy Thursday. I was a teenager (my church believed firmly in youth elders) and was terrible concerned about 1) what to wear and 2) tripping on the stairs while carrying the wine tray. That’s all I remember – I borrowed a skirt and shirt outfit (navy and red) from my mother and wore navy pumps, and I did not trip. That was about it.
There have been a lot of communions since then, and a lot of Maundy Thursdays, none of which stands out particularly. Which is not to say I have not enjoyed them, or been moved by those services, or think less of that particular observance. They do run together a bit, snippets of chalices and liturgy and faces who have offered me the elements, or received them from me. They mix it up in my memory, and some visceral thing happens when I have bread and wine that reminds me of all of them. It’s good.
Still, I wonder if things would have been better had there been chocolate – if Judas had been reminded of the sweetness of God, if things were more of a party and less of a funeral reception. But I didn’t write the story; it’s a good thing I didn’t. I would’ve added chocolate, skipped the death part, and been stuck with what to do about the resurrection since in my story Jesus wouldn’t have died.