10 things you need to know about Holy Thursday

Every single Mass, we hear the words “on the night he was betrayed.” That night was Holy Thursday, and it is one of the most important nights in all of history. Here are 10 things you need to know. washing_feet_01-255x140

1. What happened on the original Holy Thursday?

An amazing amount of stuff! This was one of the most pivotal days in the life of Jesus Christ. Here are some of the things the gospels record for this day (including events that happened after midnight). Jesus:

  • Sent Peter and John to arrange for them to use the Upper Room to hold the Passover meal.
  • Washed the apostles’ feet.
  • Held the first Mass.
  • Instituted the priesthood.
  • Announced that Judas would betray him.
  • Gave the “new commandment” to love one another.
  • Indicated that Peter had a special pastoral role among the apostles.
  • Announced that Peter would deny him.
  • Prayed for the unity of his followers.
  • Held all the discourses recorded across five chapters of John (John 13-18).
  • Sang a hymn.
  • Went to the Mount of Olives.
  • Prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  • Was betrayed by Judas.
  • Stopped the disciples from continuing a violent resistance.
  • Healed the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant, after Peter cut it off with a sword.
  • Was taken before the high priests Annas and Caiaphas.
  • Was denied by Peter.
  • Was taken to Pilate.

It was a momentous day! If you’d like to read the gospel accounts themselves, you can use these links:

 

2. Why is Holy Thursday sometimes called “Maundy Thursday”?

The word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word mandatum, or “mandate.” This word is used in the Latin text for John 13:34:

“Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos.”

Or, in English:

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.” 

Holy Thursday is thus sometimes called Maundy Thursday because it was on this day that Christ gave us the new commandment–the new mandate–to love one another as he loves us.

3. What happens on this day liturgically?

Several things:

  • The bishop celebrates a “Chrism Mass” with his priests (usually).
  • The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is held in the evening.
  • At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the priest (often) performs the washing of feet.
  • The Tabernacle is empty and the Eucharist is put in a place of repose.
  • The altar is stripped.
  • The faithful are invited to spend time in Eucharistic adoration while the Sacrament is in repose. 

 

4. What is the “Chrism Mass”?

According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:

35. The Chrism Mass which the bishop concelebrates with his presbyterium and at which the holy chrism is consecrated and the oils blessed, manifests the communion of the priests with their bishop in the same priesthood and ministry of Christ.

The priests who concelebrate with the bishop should come to this Mass from different parts of the diocese, thus showing in the consecration of the chrism to be his witnesses and cooperators, just as in their daily ministry they are his helpers and counselors.

The faithful are also to be encouraged to participate in this Mass, and to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Traditionally the Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Thursday of Holy Week. If, however, it should prove to be difficult for the clergy and people to gather with the bishop, this rite can be transferred to another day, but one always close to Easter.

The chrism and the oil of catechumens is to be used in the celebration of the sacraments of initiation on Easter night.

 

5. Why is the Mass of the Lord’s Supper significant?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

45. Careful attention should be given to the mysteries which are commemorated in this Mass: the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and Christ’s command of brotherly love; the homily should explain these points.

 

6. Is the Eucharist in the Tabernacle during this Mass?

No. According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

48. The Tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration.

Hosts for the Communion of the faithful should be consecrated during that celebration.

A sufficient amount of bread should be consecrated to provide also for Communion on the following day.

 

7. What does the rite of foot washing signify, and is it to be done for men only?

UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION REGARDING POPE FRANCIS’S FOOTWASHING PRACTICE. According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

51. The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve. This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.

The rite is optional. It does not have to be performed. Although the Church’s official texts use language that indicates only men (Latin, viri) can have their feet washed on Holy Thursday, the situation today is more complex. In 2004, the new archbishop of Boston, Seán O’Malley, was criticized for varying from the practice of his predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law, and washing only the feet of men. He explained that this was what the law required but said that he would query the Holy See about the matter. In 2005 the Boston Globe reported:

O’Malley promised to consult with Rome, and yesterday his spokeswoman said the Congregation for Divine Worship, which oversees liturgical practices, had suggested the archbishop make whatever decision he thought was best for Boston.

“The Congregation [for Divine Worship] affirmed the liturgical requirement that only the feet of men be washed at the Holy Thursday ritual.” However, the Congregation did “provide for the archbishop to make a pastoral decision.”

Cardinal O’Malley then included women in the foot-washing rite. This sequence of events created a situation that was significantly muddier than existed before. If the archbishop of Boston was allowed to make pastoral exceptions to the rule, it would be difficult to argue that other bishops could not do the same in their dioceses. This had the effect of creating a doubt as to what the law requires. According to the Code of Canon Law, “Laws, even invalidating and incapacitating ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt of law” (CIC 14). Until such time as the Holy See clarifies the matter, it appears that the law provides that only men are to have their feet washed in the ceremony but that the local bishop can choose to include women in his diocese if he deems it the best decision pastorally.  UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION REGARDING POPE FRANCIS’S FOOTWASHING PRACTICE.

8. What happens at the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

54. After the post-Communion prayer, the procession forms, with the crossbar at its head. The Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by lighted candles and incense, is carried through the church to the place of reservation, to the singing of the hymn “Pange lingua” or some other eucharistic song.

This rite of transfer of the Blessed Sacrament may not be carried out if the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion will not be celebrated in that same church on the following day.

55. The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance.

The place where the tabernacle or pyx is situated must not be made to resemble a tomb, and the expression “tomb” is to be avoided.

The chapel of repose is not prepared so as to represent the “Lord’s burial” but for the custody of the eucharistic bread that will be distributed in Communion on Good Friday.

 

9. Is there to be Eucharistic adoration at this time?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

56. After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the faithful should be encouraged to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which has been solemnly reserved.

Where appropriate, this prolonged eucharistic adoration may be accompanied by the reading of some part of the Gospel of St. John (chs. 13-17).

From midnight onwards, however, the adoration should be made without external solemnity, because the day of the Lord’s passion has begun.

 

10. What happens to the decoration of the Church at this time?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

57. After Mass the altar should be stripped.

It is fitting that any crosses in the church be covered with a red or purple veil, unless they have already been veiled on the Saturday before the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

Lamps should not be lit before the images of saints.

  5 Things You Need To Know About Triduum We are about to leave Lent and enter the liturgical season known as “Triduum.” What is this season, and why is it does the Church say that it is “the culmination of the entire liturgical year”? Here are 6 things you need to know. Easter-Triduum-Background

1. What does “Triduum” mean?

It comes from Latin roots that mean, essentially, “the three days” or “period of three days” (tri- = three, -dies = days). Today it refers to the liturgical season that follows Lent and precedes the Easter season. According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:

38. . . . This time is called “the triduum of the crucified, buried and risen”; it is also called the “Easter Triduum” because during it is celebrated the Paschal Mystery, that is, the passing of the Lord from this world to his Father.

 

2. When does Triduum begin and end?

According to the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:

19. The Easter triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.

This means that Triduum thus runs from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. It thus includes three full days, though since the season doesn’t begin at midnight, these three days are distributed as follows:

  1. The last part of Holy Thursday
  2. Good Friday
  3. Holy Saturday
  4. The first part of Easter Sunday

3. Why is Triduum important?

According to the General Norms:

18. Christ redeemed us all and gave perfect glory to God principally through his paschal mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life.

Therefore the Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Thus the solemnity of Easter has the same kind of preeminence in the liturgical year that Sunday has in the week.

 

4. How is fasting observed in this season?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

39. The Easter fast is sacred on the first two days of the Triduum, during which, according to ancient tradition, the Church fasts “because the Spouse has been taken away.”

Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence; it is also recommended that Holy Saturday be so observed, in order that the Church with uplifted and welcoming heart be ready to celebrate the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection.

Fasting and abstinence are thus required on Good Friday and fasting is recommended on Holy Saturday. (Note: These days are reckoned as beginning at midnight. Good Friday begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, not at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the preceding evening.)

5. What is “Tenebrae“?

Tenebrae (Latin, “shadows,” “gloom,” “darkness”) is the name formerly given to a particular service of readings done at this time of year. According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

40. It is recommended that there be a communal celebration of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It is fitting that the bishop should celebrate the Office in the cathedral, with as far as possible the participation of the clergy and people.

This Office, formerly called “Tenebrae,” held a special place in the devotion of the faithful as they meditated upon the passion, death and burial of the Lord, while awaiting the announcement of the resurrection.

KEEP READING…a wealth of information here.

 

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One response to “10 things you need to know about Holy Thursday

  • 9 Things You Need To Know About Good Friday | Joe Gringo

    […] h/t Jimmy Akin. (It was pointed out to me that Mr. Akin was not referenced in this post. I admit, I did omit! A 5am blogger mistake. Dang…on Good Friday no less! Thanks to ….Theo-Logis for pointing that out. I did however acknowledge him on my earlier post which is 2 posts down……10 things you need to know about Holy Thursday) […]

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