Maundy Thursday 2017

Tonight we begin the sacred paschal Triduum, the three days that are liturgically one day, when we commemorate the saving passion, death and resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Moment by moment we shall trace the events of these three days, beginning tonight with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at which we shall recall Christ’s institution of the holy Eucharist and his commandment to love one another as demonstrated by the washing of feet. Connected with this great liturgy of the whole Church are other, more particular liturgies. For our priests there is the Chrism Mass, at which the holy oils are blessed and distributed and the priests’ commitment is reaffirmed. Here in the monastery another domestic liturgy has been unfolding. Last night we began reading the Last Discourse before Compline. A single voice proclaims into the dusk those words of Jesus at the Last Supper which will end with his going to Gethsemane. It is poignant and painful and sets the tone for what is to follow.

Early this morning I went into the kitchen and baked some unleavened bread. It is not for use in the Mass. Instead, it will accompany our meals between now and Easter morning. It is the bread of affliction, the bread of suffering, a reminder of the reality of sin and redemption — something we taste, chew over, absorb into ourselves. Today it has a wonderful freshness and zest about it and will accompany our recalling of the Last Supper with joy and gladness. Tomorrow, when we fast the great fast of Good Friday, it will be stale, crumbly, eaten without relish. By Holy Saturday it will be rock hard, with all the bitterness of loss and death. It is a small way of making the huge events of the paschal Triduum approachable, knitted to the substance of our lives in a direct, uncomplicated way.

I often describe monasticism as doing theology on one’s knees. I think it could, with equal truth, be called doing theology in the kitchen. May your paschal Triduum be blessed.

Note: There are many previous posts about Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and other days of the Triduum. Please use the search box in the sidebar if interested.


Priesthood and Eucharist | Maundy Thursday 2014

The Last Supper; Unknown; Regensburg, Bavaria; about 1030 - 1040; Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment; Leaf: 23.2 x 16 cm (9 1/8 x 6 5/16 in.); 83.MI.90.38
The Last Supper; Unknown; Regensburg, Bavaria; about 1030 – 1040;


















Today’s liturgy is so full, it weighs heavy on heart and mind. There is the Chrism Mass, with its powerful reminder of the great gift of priesthood and then, this evening, the beginning of the sacred Triduum with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper when we ponder the amazing gift of the Eucharist and Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he has loved us. We have barely registered these before we are plunged into watching with Christ in the Garden at Gethsemane, conscious of sin and betrayal. There will be no let up, no lessening of tension, until the Easter Vigil. We are one with Christ on his long, last journey from this world to the next.

In previous years I have attempted to single out some aspect of the day’s events for reflection and prayer. Today, however, I suggest we think about the Preface used at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It contains in a nutshell the theology of this day:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For he is the true and eternal Priest,
who instituted the pattern of an everlasting sacrifice
and was the first to offer himself as the saving Victim,
commanding us to make this offering as his memorial.
As we eat his flesh that was sacrificed for us,
we are made strong,
and, as we drink his Blood that was poured out for us,
we are washed clean.
And so, with Angels and Archangels,
with Thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts . . .

Note on the illustration
Unknown, illuminator
The Last Supper, about 1030 – 1040, Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 23.2 x 16 cm (9 1/8 x 6 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig VII 1, fol. 38,/small>