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Examine Scripture

Holy Thursday

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The Triduum Begins…

Holy Thursday is an important part of the liturgical year as we begin the Triduum.  As we celebrate this night, there are three events of the night that have helped to shape our faith as we know it today, and, truth be told, each one could have volumes written about it.  These events are Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, the institution of the Eucharist, and the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

We’ll begin with Jesus washing the disciples’ feet:

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” -John 13:5-7, NAB  (full text)

What was the lesson being taught here?  To be like Christ, we must empty ourselves of who we thought we were.  Instead of taking a position of honor, we must humble ourselves completely.  In order to lead, we must serve.  Christ, although He was a King, came to this world as lowly carpenter.  Then, just as His ministry was reaching its pinnacle, He gave up everything and sacrificed His life on the cross.  It is this same sacrificial spirit that we must have in our daily lives as followers of Christ.

The next event was the institution of the Eucharist:

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 7:19-20, NAB  (full text)

As Jesus sat at the table with the Apostles, I wonder if they fully understood what was happening.  Jesus was laying out the design for the Eucharist, which has become one of our most important Sacraments.  In one evening, He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Mass, and the priesthood to serve it.  For that reason, we celebrate Holy Thursday as the beginning of the Triduum – the three days leading up to Easter Sunday.

The final event of the night was Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” -Mark 14:32-34 (full text)

You may have the opportunity after the Holy Thursday Mass to stay with Jesus in adoration.  Just as Jesus asked the Apostles to stay with Him during His final troubling hours, we can also spend time with Him tonight.  The Apostles struggled to stay awake as Jesus prayed, just as you may struggle in the wee hours tonight, but tonight is an awesome opportunity to give everything you’ve got to the Lord and overcome those struggles.

Holy Week is in full swing, and tonight begins the Triduum.  It is an exciting part of our year as Catholics, and there are a lot of rich traditions that go into our celebrations.  Make time to spend with our Lord and participate in any way you can.  It will bring a rich fullness to your faith and new meaning to the Easter season.

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