Reason #736 To Be Catholic; Holy Thursday!
Tonight, at the Mass of the Lord's supper, the Universal Church celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the sacerdotal priesthood. For almost 2000 years now, the Church re-enacts this special Lord's supper during Holy Week "doing this in remembrance of Him." This night is especially meaningful to all priests as well as the laity because we thank God for his precious gift of Himself that continues to abide with us through the Blessed Sacrament,consecrated through the hands of his priests.
It is a very special night of Holy Week because it commemorates the apostles given their mission and mandate (Maundy). "A new command (mandate) I give to you, love one another as I have loved you."
The one who created the stars and the planets then took off his clothes, knelt down at the feet of his disciples and washed their feet. The Catholic Church still celebrates this with the main priest washing the feet of 12 individuals who come up to the altar after the homily.
After the mass is over, the Eucharist is placed in a ciborum and with a solemn procession complete with incensing of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest places the Eucharist in the altar of repose. The main altar is then stripped of all altar cloths and the main tabernacle is left with the doors open and the lights in the sanctuary are dimmed. This symbolizes Christ leaving the cenacle with his disciples and going into the Garden of Gethsemane to begin his passion. The Churches are all left open for adoration this night and the faithful are invited to return to worship Christ in the altar of repose and to "spend one hour with him" as the disciples were asked to do that Holy Thursday night almost 2000 years ago.
It is one of the most moving experiences I have encountered since becoming Catholic and I marvel at the wisdom of God and how he uses his Church and its beautiful ancient rituals to encourage us to enter into Christ's Pasch. One of the prayers of intercession tonight was to ask God to let us receive the Eucharist with the same heart that the apostles did at the first mass. As I went up to receive Christ, I prayed that prayer over and over and I believe He answered my prayer. The graces that are available to us through the re-living of salvation history during Holy Week is reason alone to be Catholic!