Catholic News Agency
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 prophesizes 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 holy oil that will be used for baptism, confirmation, and anointing of the sick or dying. Because of the vast distances which priests must travel in the Anchorage Archdiocese, the holy oils will be blessed on April 9 in Anchorage.
On Holy Thursday, Archbishop Etienne will wash the feet of twelve people to symbolize Christ’s washing of his twelve Apostles.
Later that night, after sundown — because Passover began at sundown — the Holy Thursday marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred “Triduum,” or three, of Holy Week. These days are the three holiest days in the Catholic Church.
This Mass stresses the importance Jesus puts on the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water, a symbol of baptism. Also emphasized 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 Holy Thursday 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.