The Church's Year
ON HOLY THURSDAY
does the Church celebrate today?
The Catholic Church commemorates
today the institution, by our Saviour, of the Holy Sacrifice of
the Mass, and the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. This commemoration
she has celebrated from the first ages of Christianity.
remarkable things did Christ perform on this day?
He ate with His apostles
the Paschal lamb which was a type of Himself; it was eaten with
bitter herbs and unleavened bread; they ate it standing with clothes
girded, and staff in hand, in remembrance of the hurried escape
of the Jews from Egypt. (Exod. XII.) After having eaten the Paschal
lamb our Lord with profound humility washed the feet of His apostles,
exhorting them to practise the same humility and charity; afterwards,
He gave them His Flesh and Blood under the appearance of bread and
wine, for spiritual food and drink, thus instituting the Must Holy
Sacrament of the Altar, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the priesthood;
for when He said to the apostles: Do this in commemoration of me,
he ordained them priests. After this He held His last discourse
in which He particularly recommended brotherly love; said that beautiful,
high-priestly prayer, in which He implored His Heavenly Father particularly
for the unity of His Church. He then went as usual to Mount Olivet,
where He commenced His passion with prayer and resignation to the
will of His Father, suffering intense, deathlike agony, which was
so great that He sweat blood. Here Judas betrayed Him into the hands
of the Jews, by a treacherous kiss. They bound Him and led Him to
the high-priests, Annas and Caiphas, where He was sentenced to death
by the council, and denied by Peter.
The Introit of the Mass reads
thus: We ought to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: in
whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection: by whom we have been
saved and delivered. (Gal. VI. I4.) May God have mercy on us, and
bless us: may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon
us, and may He have mercy on us. (PS. LXVI. 2.)
O God! from whom Judas received the punishment of his sin, and
the thief the reward of his confession: grant us the effects of
Thy mercy; that as our Lord Jesus Christ at the time of His passion
bestowed on each a different recompense of his merits, so having
destroyed the old man in us, He may give us the grace of His Resurrection.
Who liveth, & c.
ceremonies are observed in this day's Mass?
The crucifix is covered with
a white veil in memory of the sacred institution of the Blessed
Sacrament of the Altar. The priest comes to the altar robed in white
vestments; the Gloria in excelsis is solemnly sung, accompanied
by the ringing of bells, and all Christians are exhorted to render
praise and gratitude to the Lord for having instituted the Blessed
Feast of Love; after the Gloria the bells are silent until Holy
Saturday to indicate the Church's mourning for the passion and death
of Jesus; to urge us also to spend these days in silent sorrow,
meditating on the sufferings of Christ, and in memory of the shameful
flight of the apostles at the capture of their master, and their
silence during these days. At the Mass the priest consecrates two
hosts one of which He consumes at the Communion, and the other he
preserves in the chalice for the following day, because no consecration
takes place on Good Friday. The officiating priest does not give
the usual kiss of peace before Communion, because on this day Judas
betrayed his master with a kiss. After Mass, the consecrated host
in the chalice, and the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, are
taken in procession to the sacristy or repository, in memory of
the earliest times of Christianity, when the consecrated hosts for
the communicants and the sick, were kept in a place especially prepared,
because there was no tabernacle on the altar. Moreover it also signifies
Christ's going to Mount Olivet, where His Godhead was concealed.
After the procession the priests with the choir say vespers in adoration
of the Blessed Sacrament.
(I Cor. XI. 20-32.) Brethren, When you come together into
one place, it is not now to eat the Lord's supper. For every one
taketh before his supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry, and another
is drunk. What! have you not houses to eat and drink in? Or despise
ye the Church of God? and put them to shame that have not? What
shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not. For
I have received of the Lord that which also. I delivered to you:
that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took
bread, and giving thanks, broke it, and said: Take ye, and eat:
this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the
commemoration of me. In like manner also, the Chalice, after, he
had supped, saying: This Chalice is the New Testament in my blood.
This do ye, as often as you shall drink it, for the commemoration
of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink this
chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come. Wherefore,
whoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily,
shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let
a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink
of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth
and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the
Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many
sleep. But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we
be not condemned with this world.
The early Christians were accustomed after the celebration of
the Lord's Supper, to unite in a common repast; those who were able
furnished the food, and rich and poor partook of it in common, in
token of brotherly love. This repast they called "Agape,” “meal
of love.” At Corinth this custom was abused, some ate before Communion
that which had been brought, became intoxicated, and deprived the
poor of their share. The Apostle condemns this abuse, declaring
it an unworthy preparation for Communion, and reminds the Corinthians
of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament telling them what a
terrible sin it is to partake of the body and blood of the Lord
unworthily, for whoever does this makes himself guilty of the body
and blood of the Lord, and eats and drinks his own judgment, that
is, eternal damnation. Therefore prove yourself, O Christian soul,
as often as you communicate, see whether you have committed any
grievous sin which you have not confessed, or for which you were
not heartily sorry.
(John XIII. 1-15.) Before the festival day of the Pasch,
Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of
this world to the Father: having loved, his own who were in the
world, he loved them to the end. And when supper was done, the devil
having now put into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot,
to betray him: knowing that the Father had given him all things
into his hands, and that he came from God, and goeth to God: he
riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments: and having taken
a towel, he girded himself. After that, he poureth water into a
basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe
them with the towel, wherewith he was girt. He cometh therefore
to Simon Peter, and Peter saith to him: Lord, dost thou wash my
feet? Jesus answered, and said to him: What I do, thou knowest not
now, but thou shaft know hereafter. Peter saith to him: Thou, shaft
never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: If I wash thee, not, thou
shaft have no part with me. Simon Peter with to him: Lord! not only
my feet, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him: He that
is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly.
And you are clean, but not all. For he knew who he was that would
betray him: therefore he said: You are not all clean. Then after
he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, being set down
again, he said to them: Know you what I have done to you? You call
me Master, and Lord: and you say well, for so I am. If then I, being
your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash
one another's feet. For I have given you an example that as I have
done to you so do you also.
did Jesus wash the feet of His disciples?
To give them a proof of His
sincere love and great humility which they should imitate; to teach
them that although free from sin, and not unworthy to receive His
most holy body and blood, their feet needed cleansing, that is,
that they should be purified from all evil inclinations which defile
the heart, and prevent holy Communion from producing fruitful effects
in the soul.
it that on this day in each church only one priest says Mass at
which the others receive Communion?
Because on this day Christ
alone offered the unbloody Sacrifice, and having instituted the
Blessed Sacrament, fed with His own hands His disciples with His
flesh and blood, it is therefore proper that in commemoration of
this, the priests in one church should receive the Blessed Sacrament
from the hands of one, according to the example of the apostles,
but as a sign of the priestly dignity which on this day Christ gave
to the apostles and their successors, each priest wears a stole.
art the altars
stripped on this day?
To show that Jesus took off,
as it were, at the time of His passion, His divine glory, and yielded
Himself up in utter humiliation into the hands of His enemies to
be crucified, (Phil. II. 6. 7.) and that at the crucifixion He was
forcibly stripped of His garments, which the soldiers divided among
them, as foretold in the twenty-first psalm, which is therefore
said during this ceremony. The faithful are urged to put off the
old sinful man with his actions, and by humbling themselves become
conformable to Christ.
it that spiritual superiors wash the feet of their subjects, as
do also the Catholic princes the feet of twelve poor men?
To commemorate the washing
of the apostles' feet by Christ, and to teach all, even the highest
to exercise the necessary virtues of humility and charity towards
all, even the lowest, according to the example given by Jesus. Princes
and spiritual superiors therefore kiss the feet after washing them,
and the pope presses them to his breast, giving to each person a
silver and a gold medal, on which is pictured the washing of the
feet by Christ.
is Tenebrae, and what its meaning?
It is the office which the
clergy say on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, accompanied
by the lamentations of the Prophet Jeremias, and other ceremonies.
The word Tenebrae
Tenebrae means darkness,
and represents the prayers formerly said in the dark hours of the
morning. In the Tenebrae the Church mourns the passion and death
of, Jesus, and urges her children to return to God; she therefore
makes use of those mournful words of Jeremias: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem,
be converted to the Lord, thy God!"
is the Tenebrae said in the evening?
In memory of that time when
the early Christians spent the whole night preceding great festivals
in prayer, but later, when zeal diminished, it was observed only
by the clergy on the eves of such festivals; also in order that
we may consider the darkness, lasting for three hours, at the crucifixion
of Christ, whence the name Tenebrae; and lastly, to represent by
it that mourning, of which darkness is the type.
the Prayers of the clergy, are the lights in the triangular candlestick
extinguished one after another?
Because the Tenebrae, as
has been already remarked, in the earliest times of the Church,
were held in the night, the candles were extinguished one after
another, as the daylight gradually approached they were no longer,
necessary; again, at the time of the passion and death of Jesus,
His apostles whom He calls the light of the world, one, after another
gradually left Him; at the death of Christ the earth was covered
with darkness. The Jews, blinded by pride, would not recognize Christ
as the Saviour of the world, and therefore fell by His death into
the deepest darkness of hardened infidelity.
meant by the last candle which is carried lighted behind the altar,
and after prayers are finished, is brought back again?
This candle signifies Christ;
who on the third day came forth from the grave, by His own power,
as the true light of the world, though according to His human nature
He died and lay in the grave until the third day.
a noise made with clappers at the end of the Tenebrae?
This was formerly a sign
that service was over; it, also signifies the earthquake which took
place at Christ's death.
should we attend the Church service on this day?
The Church commemorates on
this day the institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar;
we should therefore consider with a lively faith that Jesus, our
divine Teacher and Saviour, is really and truly here present; we
should adore Him as the Son of God, who became man to redeem us;
should admire the love which determined Him to institute the Blessed
Sacrament, that He might always be with us; and should thank Him
for all the inestimable graces which we derive from this Sacrament.
In the Cathedrals the holy oils which are used in Baptism, Conformation,
Holy Orders, and Extreme Unction, as also in consecrating baptismal
fonts and altar stones, are blessed on this day. Let us thank our
Lard for the institution of these Sacraments at which blessed oily