6:00pm Solemn Mass
Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday begins the Triduum Sacrum, the sacred three days, of the Passion and Resurrection. The feast itself remembers several things in the life of Jesus Christ.
The first remembrance of the day is the love of Jesus for His people. In our tradition this day is commonly called ‘Maundy Thursday’. This from the Latin word Mandatum, which translates- Command. This is directly from the Gospel reading for the night; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (St. John 13. 34 RSV)
There is a ritual on that night that manifests this ‘new commandment.’ The priest washes the feet of the faithful as a sign and symbol of this command to love and as a showing of servanthood- the form of love Christ asks of us.
Foot washing has its roots in the Old Testament, it was done in preparation for martial rituals, and it was also a part of the ritual ablutions of the high priest of the Temple. Jesus Himself washes the feet of the Apostles (John 13:3-5) to prepare them for their ordination.
At the parish, there are two foot washing stations, one for the priest to wash the feet of his flock, and another for those who wish to wash the feet of one another (such as a married couple, dear friends, parents & children etc.).
After the foot washing the next remembrance of the night occurs. The Institution of the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper.
A procession forms after the post communion prayer and the Blessed Sacrament is taken by solemn procession to the altar of repose. You will notice that the altar is adorned with flowers and candles, all of which signify the presence of Jesus in the Sacrament.
It is at the this point the last remembrance of the night occurs. The altar party returns to the Sanctuary having placed the Blessed Sacrament on the side altar, and as the choir sings a penitential psalm, the lights are dimmed and the altar is stripped bare. This signifies Jesus’ arrest and eminent crucifixion. This part of the service is intended to be uncomfortable, in that we are reenacting that arrest of Our Lord.
Once the altar is stripped bare, and after a time of silence, the priest will leave, the congregation can then leave in silence.
The Blessed Sacrament will remain on the side altar until the beginning of the Good Friday service, and the faithful are encouraged to come and spend time in prayer and reflection at the Altar of Repose (the church will remain lit and open for this purpose).
Maundy Thursday is a very intimate service, and one that in one service both reminds us of the joys of Jesus in His new commandment of love and the Sacrament of the altar He left to His Church, and the beginning of the agony of Jesus as He is taken away to die on the cross.