Holy Thursday is the day on which Christians commemorate Jesus’s Last Supper. It’s the day before Good Friday, which marks Jesus’s crucifixion and death. Holy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week, which is the week before Easter, from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday.
We should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered.
The Sacred Triduum is the holiest time of year for us as Catholics, for it is during these days that the Church recalls and celebrates the greatest mysteries of our redemption: The passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. The Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday night of Holy Week. It is celebrated at night because that’s when Jesus and his disciples celebrated it, in accordance with the Law of Moses, Exodus 12, versus 6 through 8.
Despite the name of this Mass, “Mass of the Lord’s Supper,” it actually commemorates the institution of not one but two sacraments, the Eucharist and the priesthood.
The instructions in the Missal explain: “After the proclamation of the Gospel the priest gives a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated namely the institution of the Eucharist and the priestly order. The commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist is obvious enough, but what about the priesthood? How exactly does Jesus ordain the apostles as priests of the New Covenant? The key is found in the Gospel reading for this Mass from John 13 versus 1 through 15.
The first reading from Exodus chapter twelve recounts the first Passover, an eminently logical choice. Since the Last Supper which Jesus celebrated with his disciples was this very feast. The blood of the lamb and the doorposts and lintel upon which the blood was smeared were a sign that this household belonged to God and therefore, death would pass over that house, sparing the first-born son. The blood and the wood prefigure the sacrifice of Christ, the true Lamb of God, whose death saves us from eternal damnation.
It’s important to note that the Passover ritual required not only that a lamb be slain but that its flesh be entirely consumed. The ceremony was not complete until the lamb had been eaten foreshadowing of Jesus’ command to “take and eat.” There are a number of other striking parallels between first Passover and the Last Supper not included in this reading and so a careful reading of the entire chapter would be well worth it.
A reading from the book of Exodus.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: “This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel, on the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month and with the whole assembly of Israel present it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand; you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the Lord. For on this same night, I will go through Egypt striking down every firstborn of the land both man and beast and executing judgement on all the gods of Egypt – I, the Lord!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt no destructive blow will come upon you. This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord as a perpetual institution. The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Psalm 116 is a fitting response to the first reading. Unlike the first reading however, which focuses on the lamb the responsorial psalm calls our attention to the “cup of salvation.” Another interesting detail of this psalm is the reference to the “sacrifice of thanksgiving,” in Hebrew: todah sacrifice. The todah sacrifice was a thanksgiving sacrifice offered under the Mosaic Law (Leviticus chapter 7 verse 11). This was a special animal sacrifice made in thanksgiving and it included the offering of bread and wine. Specifically, it was offered in thanksgiving by a person whose life had been redeemed from death. Long before Jesus appeared the rabbis believed that the todah sacrifice would be the only sacrifice to be offered in the Messianic age long after the animal sacrifices of the Temple had disappeared.
Our blessed cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up and I will call on the name of the Lord.
Our blessed cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
Precious in the eyes of the Lord Is the death of his faithful ones. I am your servant, the son of your handmaid. You have loosed my bonds.
Our blessed cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
To you will I offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all his people.
Our blessed cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
The second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is the earliest account we have of the words of institution. Paul’s letters having been composed before any of the gospels. As such it gives us the earliest formula of the Eucharist and insight into the liturgy of the early Church. Moreover, Paul didn’t receive these words from other apostles or from tradition but from the Lord himself.
A reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.
Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you that the Lord Jesus on the night he was handed over took break and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, also, the cup after supper saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
The gospel of John records details of the last supper not included in the other gospels. Careful readers of the Bible will notice that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the actual institution of the Lord’s Supper, but John does not. John gives other details of that fateful night as he focuses on the washing of the apostles’ feet. This gesture is more than simply a demonstration of humble service, which we’re called to emulate though it certainly is that. On a deeper level the washing of the apostles’ feet parallels the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests by Moses, a ritual that began with a ceremonial washing (Exodus 29:4ff, Leviticus 8:5ff). The similarities are striking.
And it also makes sense that the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which commemorates the institution of the Eucharist would also involve a ceremonial washing to commemorate the institution of the priesthood. The two sacraments are inseparable for you cannot have the Eucharist without a priest. It is by these two crucial sacraments that the mystery of our redemption, namely the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is extended throughout the ages. The parallels don’t end there. When Peter objects to the Lord washing his feet, Jesus replies, “If I do not wash you, you have no part (Greek: meros = potion; allotment, division, or share) in me” (John 13:8) The response again recalls the Levitical priesthood for upon entering the Promised Land every tribe of Israel was given a portion of land as their inheritance, every tribe but one: the Levites.
“Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 10:0, 18:2)
After the ritual washing of Aaron and his sons, the ordination ceremony continues with vesting and anointing with oil. Finally, the ordination concludes with a ritual sacrifice of a bull and a ram, a portion of which they had to eat along with unleavened bread to complete the ceremony.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory.
I give you a new commandment says the Lord: Love one another as I have loved you.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory.
The Lord be with you and with your spirit. A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John. Glory to you Oh Lord.
Before the feast of Passover Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas son of Simon the Iscariot to hand him over so during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin. 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.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him for this reason he said, “not all of you are clean.”
So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.
(Pange Lingue chant)
This is the body that will be given up for you. This is the chalice of the new covenant in my blood, says the Lord. Do this whenever you receive it in memory of me.
English: Sing, my tongue the Savior’s glory of his flesh the mystery sing;
Latin: Pange lingua gloriosi Corporis mysterium.
Of the blood all price exceeding shed by our immortal king
Sanguinisque pretiosi quem in mundi pretium
Destined, for our world’s redemption from a noble womb to spring.
Fructus ventris generosi rex effudit gentium.
Of a pure and spotless virgin born for us on earth below,
Nobis datus, nobis natus ex intacta virgine
He, as man, with man conversing stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
Et in mundo conversatus sparso verbi semine;
Then he closed in solemn order wond’rously his life of woe.
Sui moras incolatus miro clausit ordine.
On the night of that Last Supper seated with his chosen band,
In supremae nocte cenae recumbens cum fratribus
He, the paschal victim eating first fulfills the law’s command;
Observata lege plene cibis in legalibus
Then as food to his apostles gives himself with his own hand.
cibum turbae duodenae se dat suis manibus.
Word-made-flesh, the bread of nature by his word to flesh he turns;
Verbum caro, panem verum verbo carnem efficit:
Wine into his blood he changes what through sense no change discerns?
Fitque sanguis Christi merum, et si sensus deficit,
Only be the heart in earnest, faith her lesson quickly learns.
Ad firmandum cor sincerum sola fides sufficit.
Down in adoration falling, this great sacrament we hail
Tantum ergo sacramentum veneremur cernui,
O’er ancient forms of worship newer rites of grace prevail;
Et actiquum documentum novo cedat ritui;
Faith will tell us Christ is present, when our human senses fail.
praestet fides supplementum sensum defectui.
To the everlasting Father, and the Son who made us free
Genitori Genitoque laus et jubiliatio,
And from the Spirit, God proceeding from them each eternally,
Salus, honor, virtus, quoque sit et benedictio;
Be salvation, honor, blessing, might and endless majesty.
Procedenti ab utroque compar sit laudatio
A CHANTWORKS Production
Narrator Blake Applegate
Singers Kerry McCarthy, Blake Applegate
Art curator Linda Graber
Underwriting Rhonda Rossano, Linda and Lee Graber, James Cavanagh
Closing Ave Maris Stella
Voci del Tesoro
Diana Silva, director
Betty DeOrion, soprano
Art credits (in order of appearance):
Hero image: Eucharist (Sebastian Duda)
Antonello da Messina, early Renaissance, Santuario dell’Annunziata, Ficarra, Italy
The Fall of Man, Benjamin West, 1791.
Christ’s Passion, Allesandro Bellone
Catholic crucifix in Cusago, Italy (Francesco Alberti)
The empty tomb, Pisit Heng
Stained glass depicting Last Supper, cathedral, Brussels, Belgium (Jorviso)
Church in Hamilton, Canada (Vivik Trevidi)
Institution of the Eucharist, Basilica di San Marco, Florence, Italy, Fra Angelico, 1441-1441
The Sacrament of Mass in Kingwood, Houston, Texas (Josh Applegate)
The Catholic Roman Missal (Grant Whitty)
Stained glass in Virginia City, Nevada (Jonathan Dick, OSFS)
Institution of the Eucharist, Nicholas Poussin, 1640, Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Blackfriars, the Oxford house of the worldwide Dominican Order: Ordination of Brother Joseph (Shaun) Bailham O.P. to the diaconate by Bishop Philip Egan on Saturday 4 July 2020, the memoria of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, to whom Brother Joseph has a devotion, Oxford, U.K. (Father James)
The Last Supper, an image from the motion picture on the Life of Christ
Appearance on the Mountain in Galilee (panel 6), 1308, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena
Keys to the kingdom concept on the Bible (Sixteen Miles Out)
Book of Exodus of the Holy Bible, Old Testament (joshimerbin)
The Last Supper, Northern Renaissance, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan (Maarten de Vos)
The Signs on the Door detail (wearehebrew.com) angel of death lit by a candle (alexskopje)
Surrealist Angel, Salvador Dali, 1969
Lamb of God stained glass window at Trinity Episcopal church, Henrietta, Texas (David Bumgardner)
Close-up and detail of a lamb that is traditionally slaughtered. The head and forefeet hang down in front of a dark background (leopictures)
Barbeque in Plansee, Austria (Phillip Kammener)
A priest blessing the host (Creative Images)
Lamb of God (Holy Mass Images)
Departure of the Israelites, David Roberts, 1829
The Israelites Resting after the Crossing of the Red Sea, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, 1815 (photo: Public Domain)
Easter Lamb, Niko Pirosmani
The neo-gothic fresco of the Israelites at the Pesach supper at the Lord’s Passover by Leopold Bruckner, 1905, Saint Nicholas church, Trnava, Slovakia (Renata Sedmakova)
Innocence, Bouguereau (Joyart)
Lamb lying in grass (Schubbel)
The first of offering of Abel, reproduction of the statue by Léon Fagel, 1851, Museum of Fine Arts in Valenciennes, France (Adam Jan Figel)
Lamb’s blood on the threshold, Norman Brice
Seder meal: Zeroah (lamb), beitzaah (roasted egg), haroset ((fruit, nut paste), Mai’or (bitter herb like horseradish, karpas (like parsley), salt water to dip karpas symbolizing the slaves’ tears
Biblical Moses walks through the Sinai desert, the wilderness, in search of the Promised Land, 3d render painting (Oliver Denker)
Biblical Moses leads the Israelites through the desert Sinai during the Exodus, in the wilderness, in search of the Promised Land with the Ark of the Covenant, 3d render painting (Oliver Denker)
Ely Cambridgeshire United Kingdom September 4th 2007 Ely Cathedral Stained glass window depicting the death of the first born. Even the firstborn of Egyptian animals die (Olan)
Egyptian gods Anubis, Ra, Amon, and Osiris (Klyaksun)
House in the open-air museum of Nazareth Village in Israel (Mick Harper) Angel of death flies in the air with waving mantle (Ironika)
The Last Supper Henryk Siemiradzki
Host and wine, Josh Applegate
Stockholm, Sweden: stained glass window, Angus Dei (Jorisvo)
Fresco of the sacred chalice, Bergamo, Italy (Kyna Studio)
Fresco in Church of St. Vincent by Asmalia di Angelo, 1872, Rome, Italy (Renata Sedmakova)
Moses (Israel my Glory)
Middle Eastern boy with lamb (ArtMari)
Antique rosary with bread and wine (Anneka)
Abraham sacrificing Isaac (Zvonimir Atletic)
Vienna, Austria: Fresco depicting Catholic clergy adoring Christ in the Holy Eucharist (Adam Jan Figel)
The chalice (James Coleman)
The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787). Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) in Vienna, Austria (Adam Jan Figel)
Transubstantiation (Anuja Mary Tilj)
Crying out the Lord (Averie Woodard)
The chalice (Zolnierek)
Stained glass spiral in Dallas, Texas (Adam Gonzales)
An icon of the Virgin and Child at St. Paul’s in London (Ruth Gledhill)
Hands bound in chains (Volodymyr Nik)
Old chalice on stone and grey background (F.J. Carneros)
Woman praying the Rosary (Gianna Bonello)
Jesus The Good Shepherd, Jesus and lambs and lion (Jozef Klopacka)
Praying in church (Josh Applegate)
Congregation at Mass (Southern Orders)
Holy communion against grey stone (Zolnierek)
St. Paul the Apostle, Pompeo Batoni, 1740, National Trust Collection
Apostle Paul, Heilige Paulus, Jan Lievents, 1624
Burial painting with religious motifs in the Catacombs of San Gennaro, (The Road Provides)
Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Jesus gives assurances to St. Paul, Rome, Italy (Zvonimir Atletic)
St. Paul the Apostle before Nero (Greek Imagery)
Via Crucis (Way of the Cross). Representation of passion of Christ in the center of Antignano, Italy, The apostles congregate and Jesus blesses the bread (Saturn Productions)
Via Crucis (Way of the Cross). Representation of passion of Christ in the center of Antignano, Italy, The apostles congregate and Jesus offers up the cup (Saturn Productions)
The symbolic fresco Jesus gives the communion in church, Vienna, Austria, Pfarrkirche Kaisermühlen, end of 19th century (Renate Sedmakova)
Apostle St. John the Evangelist, El Greco. 1612
The writers of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (Stained Glass, Inc.)
Medieval fresco depicting Washing of feet at Last Supper in Gelati Church near Kutaisi, Georgia (Jorisvo)
Jesus Christ open hands from heaven (Jacob_09)
Moses washes Aaron (pureligion); Moses Consecrates Aaron, Darlene Slavujac, 1994
Eucharist Altarpiece (detail). Justus van Gent, 1467
Christ washing the feet of his disciples, Tintoretto, c. 1547
Consecration of the Eucharist (Anneka)
The Resurrection, Piero della Francesca, 1460
Christ washing the feet of the disciples, Paolo Veronese, 1580
Moses blesses Joshua before the high priest, James Jacques Joseph Tissot, c 1900
Biblical Jewish priest standing before the Temple of Solomon (Oliver Denker)
Moses and Aaron with the Elders, Marc Chagall, 1966
Moses Consecrates Aaron, Darlene Slavujac, 1994
Fresco of Jesus the king in Saint Francis Xavier church, Paris (Renata Sedmakova)
The Sermon on the Mount, Carl Bloch, 1877, The Museum of National History, Bedestolen
Cross and crown in stained glass (GWImages)
Saint John the Apostle (catholicsaints.info)
Michael Belk at Jesus Christ in Journeys with the Messiah (Vie magazine)
The Lord’s Prayer, James Jacques Joseph Tissot, c 1890
Judas receiving payment for his betrayal, Giotto di Bondone-Scrovegni, c 1306
Jesus Christ, Leopold Kupelwieser, 19 c, Peterskirsche, Vienna (Renata Sedmakova)
A view from space to a spiral galaxy and stars. Elements of this image furnished by NASA (Triff)
Slow motion of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (Gino Santa Maria)
Saints Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Church, Ljubljana, Slovakia. Christ washing the Disciples feet (Godongphoto)
Jesus pouring water through his fingers before washing disciples’ feet (Andre Marcelo Santa Maria)
St. Peter the Apostle, Church of San Uldarico, unknown artist, Parma, Italy (Renata Sedmakova)
Jesus washes apostles’ feet (jw.com)
Jesus washing the feet of St. Peter, Giovanni Giuliami, Heilgenkreuz Abbey, Austria (Godongphoto)
Stained glass window in Saint-Pierre Church, Normandy, France (Claudio Giovanni Columbo)
Judas Iscariot (The Independent)
Washing pan with towel (Kara Gebhardt)
Painting of the Last Supper of Christ in St. Nicholas church, 17 c
Fresco of twelve apostles in church Chiesa di San Dalmazzo, Enrico Reffo, 1914, Turin, Italy (Renata Sedmakova)
An ancient stone sculpture of Jesus surrounded by his followers (Frank Middendorf)
Missal used for readings during the celebration of Catholic Mass (Filippo Carlot)
Transubstantiation of the host at Mass (Wideonet)
Transubstantiation of the wine at Mass (Wideonet)
Jesus praying with his disciples at the last supper (lambofgod.net)
Angel playing lute, Melozzo da Fiorli, Vatican Museums, Rome (Asier Villafranca)
Christ, Polyptych of the Resurrection, Titan, 1520
Madonna and the child and singing angels, Sandro Botticelli, c. 1477, Gemäldegalarie: Berlin
Madonna and Child of the Grapes, Fra Angelico, 1425, Barbara Piasecka-Johnson Collection, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
The Sermon on the Mount for The Life of Christ, James Jacques Joseph Tissot, 1886, Brooklyn Museum, New York City, New York
Panel of the Tauberbischofsheim Altar: Crucifixion (earlier known as the Karlsruhe altarpiece or Karlsruhe panels), Matthias Grunewald, 1523, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe Collection
The Last Supper, Giampietrino or Giovanni Antonio Boltrafio, 16 c
Institution of the Eucharist instituted at the Last Supper by Jesus (Nancy Bauer)
Jesus Christ holding the Eucharist, Valencia, Spain (Jorisvo)
Fresco of the Holy Trinity, Sebastiano Conca, 1680, Church of the San Francesco Saverio (Renata Sedmakova)
Chalice and paten in stained glass (Nancy Bauer)
Jesus and Saint John at the Last Supper, St. Michael’s Church. 19 c., Michelskerk (Renata Sedmakova)
Mother Mary in prayer in stained glass in Cathedral of Monaco (Jorisvo)
Apollo temple ruins, Antalya, Turkey (Sondem)
Jesus as a priest with the Eucharist in the Votivkirche church, brothers Carl and Franz Jobst, 19 c, (Renata Sedmakova)
Old Orthodox icon (8th Creator)
Greek Catholic Co-Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Holy Trinity, Zagreb, Croatia (Zvonimir Atletic)
Christ the King icon (stillromancatholicafteralltheseyears.com)
Angel adoring the Eucharist, Prague, Czech Republic; Basilica of Vysehrad (Jorisvo)
© CHANTWORKS 2022