Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday

c. 33 A.D.
Liturgical Color: White

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” ~Luke 22:19–20

Holy Thursday is also called Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, which is translated “mandate.” It is on this night that our Lord gave the mandate to “do this in remembrance of me.” That mandate was the command to celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist until the end of time, a mandate that the faithful continue to keep.

According to Sacred Scripture, Holy Thursday was a power-packed day and night. It began with Jesus sending Peter and John ahead to prepare the Upper Room for the celebration of the Passover meal. That meal would become the beginning of the New Passover. During the meal, Jesus gave a witness of selfless, sacrificial service by fulfilling the role of a servant and washing the feet of the disciples. After that, Jesus transformed the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity for the very first time, and the disciples received Holy Communion. By commanding them to “do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus instituted the new sacramental priesthood. He also predicted that one of those priests would betray Him and another would deny Him, a sign that His chosen priests then and now are also sinners. In John’s Gospel, Jesus gave a lengthy sermon, “The Bread of Life Discourse,” and then went out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray in agony as He awaited His arrest. Peter, James, and John went with Him but fell asleep, abandoning our Lord in His last agony. Jesus was arrested, endured the scrutiny of the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas, and then was imprisoned so that He could be sent for judgment by Pilate. During the interrogations, the disciples fled and Peter, the future leader of the Church, denied he knew Jesus three times.

Was this truly a “holy” night? Indeed. True holiness is not a matter of having everything in your life be easy. It’s not about having the most entertaining and comfortable life possible. It’s not about avoiding every obstacle and difficulty that might befall you. Holiness is about fidelity to the fulfillment of the will of the Father in Heaven. Jesus fulfilled the Father’s will that night flawlessly. He set the stage for the coming of the Holy Spirit, instituted the Sacraments, and prepared to empower those Sacraments with His very life, which would be sacrificed the following day.

During the evening of Holy Thursday, after the conclusion of the Mass, the faithful accompany Jesus on a procession from the church to an altar of repose where our Lord’s sacred Body is placed until midnight. Whether you are able to kneel before that altar tonight or not, be with our Lord in prayer. Keep vigil with Him. Hear our Lord say to you, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). If you struggle with accompanying our Lord in prayer, then hear Him say to you what He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40–41). If you bring burdens with you tonight, say with our Lord, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Matthew 26:42). With a concerted effort, remain recollected throughout this night, tomorrow, and Saturday. It all begins tonight but culminates with Easter joy on Sunday. Enter Jesus’ suffering and death so that you can also share in His Resurrection!

My agonizing Lord, You endured every human suffering imaginable out of love for me and all Your children. Please give me the grace I need to accompany You through Your suffering and death. May I unite my sufferings with Yours, embracing them freely and with love, so that I may fulfill the Father’s will, sacrificially laying my life down for others, and one day share fully in the glories of Your Resurrection. Jesus, I trust in You.

More Prayers and Reflections:

The One True Sacrifice of the Mass

Humility of Service, Nourished by the Eucharist

Our Model for Holiness

Cleansed by the Greatest Humility

Prayer Meditation for Holy Thursday

More for Holy Week

Stations of the Cross

Gospel Reflection for Holy Thursday

All Daily Reflections for Holy Week

Divine Mercy Reflections

40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

Rosary – Sorrowful Mysteries (with Scripture)

Litany of Humility

Uniting Suffering to the Cross

Prayer of Abandonment

Prayer of Surrender

Catholic Saints & Feasts: Audio

Poem – The Charcoal Fire

Further Reading:

National Catholic Register

Catholic News Agency

Catholic Encyclopedia

Catholic Online

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