Dear friends, we have successfully stepped into the most important and solemn period in the Church’s liturgical calendar, which ushers us to the celebration of Easter, the Mother of all celebrations. This period is known as Easter Triduum. It is important to note that the word “Triduum” originates from Latin. It is used to refer to a period of three days of prayer before a feast. In this light, Easter Triduum refers to the activities of the Church during the three days preceding Easter. Thus, we talk about Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Hence, Easter Triduum begins on Holy Thursday with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, is continued through Good Friday with the celebration of the passion of the Lord, reaches its high point in the Easter vigil, and concludes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
Today being Holy Thursday, I want us to briefly reflect on its significance.
On a day like this, we remember the Lord’s Last Supper with his Apostles, in which He institutes the Sacrament of His body and blood (Holy Eucharist) – “TAKE AND EAT, THIS IS MY BODY…THIS IS MY BLOOD…DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME” (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; {Cf: 1Cor. 11:23-25}). With these words, Jesus chose his apostles to serve and lead the Church; put differently, Jesus ordains His Apostles as priests of the New Covenant, in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross – only a priest can offer gifts and sacrifice. To this day, the catholic priest continues to act “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ) and re-enacts the sacrifice offered once and for all by Christ in His memory (“Do this in memory of me” 1Cor.11:25). This is known as the priesthood of Christ in the order of Melchizedek and should not be likened with the Levite priesthood of the Old Testament. In fact, St. Paul tells us in 1Cor. 11:26-27 that whenever we eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, we proclaim his death, until He comes again. Therefore, Holy Thursday is a special day for all Catholic Priests, a day which marks the beginning of the ordained priesthood. The Mass is celebrated in the evening, and it’s a beautiful and joyful celebration. During the singing of the Gloria, the church bells are rung and then remain silent until the Easter Vigil of Holy Saturday night.
On a day like this, we also remember that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, which reflects a call to service and love. In this vein, the priest washes the feet of some members of the congregation today.
This is the night which we also remember the betrayal and arrest of the Son of God by one of his newly ordained priest – Judas Iscariot (the highest of all priestly scandals). Fulton Sheen once said that “no other priestly scandal can surpass that of Judas Iscariot, which happened right there in the presence of Christ – Christ allowed satan to operate even in his newly formed Church in the upper room”. This indicates that the Church is a community of “saints and sinners”. Little wonder the Latin man exclaims: “ubi multitudinem, ibi peccata”: meaning, in the midst of multitudes, sin persists; and this shall continue until the Kingdom of God comes; when the sheep would be separated from the goats, and there shall only be saints in the gathering of the faithful.
With the arrest of Christ, the Church’s Altar, which signifies Christ is stripped of its beauty (altar clothes) and would remain bare until the “Gloria” of Easter Vigil.
Since Holy Thursday is a feast day of the Blessed Sacrament, there is a little procession of the Eucharist after the Mass to an altar of repose set up for the occasion. In this regard, we are encouraged to spend at least an hour with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament: “Stay here and keep vigil with me for an hour…” (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46).

Watch out for Part 2: Good Friday

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