Maundy or Holy Thursday – 18 April
The last three days of Holy Week are referred to as the Easter or Sacred Triduum (Triduum Sacrum), the three-part drama of Christ’s redemption – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Holy Thursday is also known as “Maundy Thursday.” The word maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (commandment) which is the first word of the Gospel acclamation:
Mandátum novum do vobis dicit Dóminus, ut diligátis ínvicem, sicut diléxi vos. “I give you a new commandment, Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
These are the words spoken by our Lord to His apostles at the Last Supper, after He completed the washing of the feet. We should imitate Christ’s humility in the washing of the feet.
Except for the resurrection on Easter, Holy Thursday is possibly one of the most important, complex and profound days of celebration in the Catholic Church. Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.
During the Last Supper, Jesus offers Himself as the Passover sacrifice, the sacrificial lamb and teaches that every ordained priest is to follow the same sacrifice in the exact same way. Christ also bids farewell to His followers and prophesies that one of them will betray Him and hand Him over to the Roman soldiers.
Around the world, Bishops and priests come together at their local Cathedrals on Holy Thursday morning to celebrate the institution of the priesthood. During the Mass, the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism that will be used for Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the sick or dying. At this Mass, the bishop washes the feet of twelve priests to symbolise Christ’s washing of His twelve Apostles, our first bishops and priests.
Later that night, after sundown – because Passover began at sundown- the Holy Thursday Liturgy takes place, marking the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred “Triduum,” or three, of Holy Week. This Mass stresses the importance Jesus puts on the humility of service and the need for cleansing with water, a symbol of baptism. Also emphasised are the critical importance of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of Christ’s Body, which we now find present in the consecrated Host.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the faithful are invited to continue Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night, just as the disciples were invited to stay up with the Lord during His agony in the garden before His betrayal by Judas.
After Holy Thursday, no Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil celebrates and proclaims the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“In spite of all this, we do not remain passive recipients of the divine goodness. God gratifies us as personal and living partners. The love that is given is the dynamic of “loving together,” it is intended to be a new life within us, beginning from God. We thus understand the words that, at the end of the account of the washing of the feet, Jesus speaks to His disciples and to all of us: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). The “new commandment” does not consist in a new and difficult norm, one that did not exist before. The new commandment consists in a loving together with Him who loved us first.”
Pope Benedict XVI – 20 March 2008 Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper