PASCHAL TRIDUUM: REFLECTION FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY/HOLY THURSDAY (EVENING MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER)

Dear friends in Christ, with today being Holy Thursday (or Maundy Thursday as it is traditionally called), 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/Paschal 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. Thus, Easter Triduum refers to the activities of the Church during the three days preceding Easter. Thus, we talk about Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means “commandment.” According to Christian tradition, near the end of the Last Supper, after the disciple Judas had departed, Christ said to the remaining disciples, “I give you a new commandment: love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). The Latin term became the Middle English word Maundy by way of the Old French “mande.” The Church lives out Christ’s commandment to love one another in a number of ways through her traditions on Maundy Thursday. The best-known way is the ‘washing of the feet’ of laymen by their priest during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which recalls Christ’s washing of the feet of His disciples, as we see in today’s Gospel Reading (cf. John 13:1-15). Aside from celebrating Jesus’ mandate (commandment) of love on this day, we also celebrate the anniversary of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, and also the institution Ministerial Priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of Salvation. This was brought about by Christ who transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover.

The First Reading (cf. Exd. 12:1-8,11-14) demonstrates God’s command to the Israelites to observe the Passover festival, which marks a turning point in their history as a people; a feast, in which their liberation from the house of Egypt and slavery would be recalled forever. Thus, it would be celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian slavery, their exodus from Egypt and final arrival in the Promised Land. Later in Exodus 12, we hear Moses telling the people: “When your children ask you what you mean by this observance, just tell them that we are remembering the night when Yahweh passed over all the Israelite houses (cf. Exd. 12:26-27). With the person of Christ at the Last Supper, this solemn and most important feast of the Jews becomes transformed and gains a new meaning. It now signifies the liberation and freedom from sin, freedom from satan the evil one, and freedom from the world, as we hear in Christ’s words “Take and Eat, This is My Body…This is My Blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (cf. Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; {1Cor. 11:23-25}). With the preceding words, Christ instituted the Sacred Priesthood. With the words: “DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME”, 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. This is known as the priesthood of Christ in the order of Melchizedek. Following this mandate, St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading (cf. 1Cor. 11:23-26) Paul suggests that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. By it, Christians remind themselves of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus: “Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.”

Dear friends in Christ, we must recall that before Christ instituted this Sacrament, he washed the feet of his Apostles; therefore, our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet; that is, to serve one another and revere Christ’s presence in other persons. To wash the feet of others is to love them, and do good to them even when they don’t deserve it or can’t or return the favour. To wash the feet of others is to be considerate and prioritize other people’s needs, the same way we consider and prioritize ours. It is to forgive others from the heart, even though they don’t say, “I’m sorry.” It is letting others know we care when they feel depressed or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we’re treated unfairly. It is to make adjustments in our plans in order to serve others’ needs without expecting any reward. In doing and suffering all these things in this way, we would be fulfilling the mandate given to us at the end of every Eucharistic Celebration: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord;” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” This is exactly where the Holy Mass takes its name: “Ite missa est”.

PS: 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.

Shalom!
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
nozickcjoe@gmail.com / fadacjay@gmail.com

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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith.

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