Maundy or Holy Thursday of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper and The Seven Churches Visitation
Maundy Thursday begins the sacred Triduum—the holiest days of the Church year. The liturgy reflects the beauty of the Paschal mystery and the Passover Feast of Christ. The Triduum is a time that we walk in Jesus’ footsteps for His final hours on earth. Personal devotions always spring up to unite the faithful’s domestic church with the liturgy of the Church but even more so during the holiest week of the year and in particular in this year of Covid19 when we are all locked down in our homes and are unable to accompany our Lord on His journey to the Cross.
At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Gospel is John 13:1-15, Christ washing the feet of the Apostles. 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). At the Mass the priest washes feet of several people in imitation of Christ.
The Seven Churches Visitation
In metropolitan areas where there are more Catholic churches, there is the popular tradition of visiting the altar of repose in seven local churches. This custom began in Rome (often credited to St Philip Neri) with visiting the seven major basilicas of the city on Holy Thursday: St Peter’s in the Vatican, St Paul’s outside the Walls, St John Lateran, St Mary Major, St Sebastian’s, St Lawrence Outside the Walls and Holy Cross in Jerusalem. See them all below.
This Holy Thursday pilgrimage reflects the seven stops or “stations” during the night of Jesus’ arrest:
Jesus in the Garden in Gethsemane where He was arrested (Luke 22:39-46)
Jesus taken before Annas (John 18:19-22)
Jesus bound and taken before Caiaphas, the High Priest (Matthew 26:63-65)
Jesus taken before Pilate, the Roman governor (John 18:35-37)
Jesus goes before Herod (Luke 23:8-9, 11)
Jesus returns to Pilate (Matthew 27:22-26)
Jesus is scourged, crowned with thorns and led to His crucifixion (John 19:1-16)
The previous book of indulgences, the Raccolta, included this practice. The suggested prayers were an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be, five times before the Altar of Repost of the Blessed Sacrament and then some private adoration and personal prayer (reflection on the scripture passages related to the “station”) before moving on to the next church.
The final church stop can also include prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions and a longer time of adoration with Jesus in the altar of repose. In some regions the number of churches expanded to 14 to include the entire Stations of the Cross. Some other traditions of prayers, with the Seven Churches, is praying along with the Seven Last Words of Christ. This year there will be many online resources and we can pray the Liturgy together in our home,s as well as, make the Seven Churches pilgrimage by reading each Gospel reading aloud and praying the prayers suggested.
May we all accompany Our Lord tonight and not leave Him alone!