Courtesy of Catholic News Agency....Except for the resurrection on Easter, Holy Thursday (a.k.a. Maundy Thursday) is possibly one of the most important, complex, and profound days of celebration in the Catholic Church. Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.
During the Last Supper, Jesus offers himself as the Passover sacrifice, the sacrificial lamb, and teaches that every ordained priest is to follow the same sacrifice in the exact same way. Christ also bids farewell to his followers and prophesizes that one of them will betray him and hand him over to the Roman soldiers.
Around the world, Bishops and priests come together at their local Cathedrals on Holy Thursday morning to celebrate the institution of the priesthood. During the Mass, the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism that will be used for Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the sick or dying.
At this Mass, the bishop washes the feet of twelve priests to symbolize Christ’s washing of his twelve Apostles, our first bishops and priests.
Later that night, after sundown – because Passover began at sundown- the Holy Thursday Liturgy takes place, marking the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred "Triduum,” or three, of Holy Week. These days are the three holiest days in the Catholic Church.
This Mass stresses the importance Jesus puts on the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water, a symbol of baptism. Also emphasized are the critical importance of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of Christ’s Body, which we now find present in the consecrated Host.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the faithful are invited to continue Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night, just as the disciples were invited to stay up with the Lord during His agony in the garden before His betrayal by Judas.
There is such an abundance of symbolism in the solemn celebration of the events of Holy Thursday layer upon layer, in fact that we can no more than hint at it in these few words. For many centuries, the Last Supper of Our Lord has inspired great works of art and literature, such as the glorious stained glass window in Chartres cathedral, Leonardo da Vinci's ever popular (and much imitated) Last Supper in the 16th century, and the reminiscence called Holy Thursday, by the French novelist, Franasois Mauriac, written in the 1930s.
After Holy Thursday, no Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil celebrates and proclaims the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I know not everyone reading this may practice the Catholic faith, but I just wanted to share this in the spirit of goodwill. May we all be reminded of the generosity and humility of Christ, and share those virtues with all those we meet as we continue to uphold and speak up for the Truth that God established in love, and manifested through His Son's tremendous and complete sacrifice. As we await His glorious Resurrection, God bless you all.