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10 things you need to know about Holy Thursday

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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.

 

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.

 

Read more at the National Catholic Register.

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