Recalling Holy Thursday

Carmel Bulletin, 14 May 2014

The Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper is the beginning of the Easter Triduum.  It is the first part of the extended three-day celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is the only Mass we are permitted to celebrate in the parish on Holy Thursday.

Each part of the Triduum has a ritual element that makes it unique.  While the Missal states that it is optional, the Washing of Feet is particular to Holy Thursday, and many people gather to engage in this unique and moving ritual.

Bowl, jug of water and stool for the Washing of FeetThe Latin name for the Washing of Feet, the mandatum, not only lends itself to one of the names for this day (Maundy Thursday), but indicates the focus of this ritual and of this Eucharistic celebration.  The point of this ritual is that Christ gives a mandatum novum (new commandment) to love one another as he loved his disicples; a love so great that he would kneel like a servant to wash their feet, and sacrifice himself so that we all may have eternal life.  This ritual is also preceded by the proclamation of the only gospel account of the original mandatum (John 13:1-15).

The Last Supper is intended to sustain the apostles as they live their lives beyond that moment, just as the Eucharist is intended to nourish and sustain us beyond the Mass as we go out and ‘wash the feet’ of those we encounter.  Thus, the only account of the Last Supper in this celebration is that in the Eucharistic Prayer, when we actually do what Christ gave us to celebrate in his memory.

Neither the Washing of Feet nor the Last Supper are intended to be mere reenactments.  Each one of them has a memorial dimension, but they also make Christ present amongst us now, and change and transform us today.  They move us to live as disciples today, with our eyes firmly set on the goal that is complete unity with Christ when we take our place at the eternal banquet of heaven.

24/4/11 – The Easter Triduum

Today brings to a conclusion the great celebration of the Easter Triduum.  Once the sun set on Thursday, we entered into this celebration with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  The second part of this three-day celebration took place on Friday afternoon with the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion.  Finally, we resumed our celebration on Saturday evening by participating in the high-point of the entire liturgical year – the Easter Vigil Mass.

Each of these parts of the Easter Triduum is characterised by liturgical rituals that are unique to these great three days.

Washing of the FeetAt the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Fr Paul knelt down before his parishioners and washed their feet.  In this ritual, we are reminded of Christ’s commandment to love one another, and the way Jesus challenged the disciples to live out this command.  We engage in the washing of feet each year not as some role-play or historical reenactment, but because we too, as disciples of Jesus, are called not to be served, but to serve.

Veneration of the CrossOn Good Friday, hundreds of us came forward to venerate the cross.  On this day, we celebrate what is very much our Good Friday.  Although Christ died as he hung upon the wood of the cross, as the ritual reminds us, Christ is the salvation of the world.  We continue through to Easter with the hope of that salvation.

Service of LightFinally, the Easter Vigil begins with the Service of Light.  The pillar of fire led the Israelites at that first Passover, through suffering and slavery to new life.  Our pillar of fire, the Paschal candle, leads us to our celebration of Christ’s Passover, his passing over from death to new life.  Guided by the light of Christ, we recall the history of our salvation, celebrate the resurrection, and initiate new Christians into Christ and his Church.

May God bless you all during this time, and over the fifty joyful days of the Easter season.