Thursday of the Mysteries

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Photo: Osservatore Romano / Reuters

On the Thursday of the Mysteries (known in the West as  Holy Thursday and Maundy Thursday) we remember the Last Supper. In the Gospel of John, Jesus begin’s by washing his disciples’ feet::

“Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12-15)

Jesus knows his fate and is ensuring that the disciples will continue his work. He leads his disciples through actions of humility and love so they may serve the people of God in the same way.

Last year the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree for the reform of the Roman Missal to include a fuller representation in the washing of the feet. This recognized that the action of Christ washing the disciples feet in the Gospel demonstrated that Christ came in humility for all the people of God and the decree instructed that “pastors may select a small group of the faithful to represent the variety and the unity of each part of the people of God. Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity.”[1]

In the Maronite Church we are told in one of the former English editions of the Book of Offering for Passion Week (St Maron Publications, Brooklyn, New York 1994) that in earlier versions of the Maronite Ritual for the Thursday of the Mysteries, the Maronite service instructs the priest to wash the feet of the entire congregation.[2]

This is reflected in the words of the current Liturgy when we hear:

“You washed the feet of your apostles to teach us humility and love.” (Prayer of Forgiveness)

Later in the Gospel, Jesus sits with his disciples for the Jewish Passover meal. Jesus institutes the Mystery of the Eucharist. At this meal, it is not a Passover lamb that will be sacrificed, it will be Jesus, the new Lamb that has come to wash away our sins.

In the Maronite Liturgy we hear:

You ate the Passover lamb with them, so that you yourself might become our Passover and our Lamb.” (Prayer of forgiveness)-

It is through this action that the Liturgy reminds us that Jesus has also founded the Mystery of the Priesthood for the consecration of the Eucharist.

“You shared your eternal Priesthood with the apostles and their successors, priests of the new covenant. Through their hands, you offer yourself to the Father as a pure and acceptable sacrifice”

The consecration is found in the Gospel of Luke which we hear in the Liturgy for today:

“Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:17-20)

Jesus then retires to the Mount of Olives to pray for the disciples who will carry out his work after his crucifixion, Jesus was anxious for the disciples and himself. He prayed to ask for strength “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.” (Luke 22: 42-43)

Jesus sweats blood while praying, the blood he will shed and will the next day be shed on the cross to redeem the entire world.

Let us reflect on all of Christ’s action on this night and bring them into our lives. In the words of the Liturgy let us pray:

 “Let us raise glory, honour, and praise to the Lamb of God, who voluntarily became the Paschal Lamb and offered himself as a redeeming sacrifice. He truly gave us his Body as food and his Blood as drink, as a pledge of eternal life.” (Prayer of Forgiveness)

[1] See the decree at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20160106_decreto-lavanda-piedi_en.html

[2] See http://stjohnmaronchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Qurbono-Season-of-Great-Lent-and-Passion-Week.pdf at pg 148


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