It was upon a moonlit night (Maundy Thursday)
It was upon a moonlit night / when Jesus broke the bread;
With friends now gathered at his side / in solemn voice he said,
“For, lo, these many days we have / proclaimed the Kingdom at hand;
In turns: at table, by tale, by touch / we’ve shown God gracious and grand.
“But now the forces of power and hate / make ready to bury this wheat,
Before their deeds are done, my friends / each of you, take and eat.”
Then raising high the cup of wine / he looked the room around
And spoke once more of days now past / of children lost now found.
“My friends, the justice of our God / is sealed in gracious love;
As earth gives freely to the vine / so mercy flows above.
Yet ’gainst the mercy we freely shared / oppression has lengthened its reach.
And now, before my blood is spilled / from this cup, drink of you each.”
With eyes aflame with fear and faith / did Christ thus finish the meal;
And we who gather at his request—rememb’ring, we render it real.
In mercy breaking the bread he gave / in kindness sharing the cup;
In love encount’ring the least of these / and thereby his wounds we bind up.
… In love encount’ring the least of these / and thereby raising Christ up.
Text: David R. Weiss, b. 1959 (text, 2004, © 2008 David R. Weiss)
Tune: Richard S. Willis, 1819-1900, CAROL (It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, Lutheran Book of Worship 54 – public domain)
Permission is given to photocopy It was upon a moonlit night for use in worship.
Written for Maundy Thursday (but appropriate to any service, particularly an evening one, where the Eucharist will be celebrated) It was upon a moonlit night intentionally uses the tune of a favorite Christmas Carol—both to link Christmas to Holy Week/Easter, but also to emphasize the theme of incarnation as the driving power of Holy Week. This hymn text sets Jesus’ suffering and death within the context of his radical welcome, as the risk he took to bear witness to God.