Holy Thursday and Good Friday
Lent has ended and now we begin the Holy Week Triduum. The word Triduum is the Latin for three days that is the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the great Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. The Church celebrates one liturgy each day. We should not think of the liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil as three separate events, all three form part of one single extended liturgy. In fact at the end of the Mass on Holy Thursday there is no dismissal and blessing instead we accompany Jesus to the Altar of repose. In the same way there is no formal beginning and end to the Good Friday liturgy. This three-day liturgy concludes with the solemn blessing at the end of the Easter Vigil or at the morning Mass on Easter Sunday.
Holy Thursday is all about the priesthood and the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper. On the Morning of Holy Thursday, there is only one mass celebrated in a Diocese (Although the Chrism Mass may be celebrated earlier in the week). All the priests gather around the Bishop and the people of God to renew their commitment to priesthood. Also at this Mass the oils of Chrism, Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick are blessed by the bishop, these holy oils will be used in the Baptisms, Confirmations and anointing of the sick in the local parishes over the next 12 months. The theme running throughout this day is one of humble service that is service of God and his people.
The Evening Mass commerates the Last Supper again the theme is service and sacrifice both of these are aspects of the same mystery. We see Jesus as one who serves, who gives himself. Just as he freely gives himself in washing the feet of his disciples, so too he gives himself in the bread and wine he takes, blesses and hands to the disciples.
In the same way we receive Jesus in the form of Bread and wine from the hands of our priests. All these acts of self-giving are the same act – that of the Son of Man who came ‘not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ May we take up the mantle of humble service giving a helping hand to others and not counting the cost to ourselves. Many people over the years have given much at great personal cost and have not failed in their example of humble service and that for me is what Holy Thursday is all about Humble service for others and not being afraid of being the presence of Christ for others no matter what the cost is.
On this day in the liturgy we read St. Johns account of the passion, we pray for the needs of the Church and the world, we venerate the Cross and we receive the blessed Eucharist. We think of the death of Jesus on the cross, his death was a result of the courage of his convictions. He lived his life with a message of compassion, of equality and love, Jesus was often critical of those who lorded it over those who were less well off or who had little or even nothing at all. The cross of Good Friday is a sign and a symbol that all of us recognise, it is a sign of the completeness of the love that God has for each one of us faults and failings included. It is not accidental that the Passion according to John is always read on this day. This account shows Jesus always in charge, in total command of his situation. John’s Passion is an extended commentary on an earlier statement of Jesus found in John 10:17-18: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
The focus of the liturgy of Good Friday, is not primarily a meditation on Jesus’ pain, nor on our sinfulness, nor on our imitation of Jesus’ humility on their own. Rather the focus is a reminder to us that we are beneficiaries of this event, and so we call the Friday “Good” by thanking God for what God has done for us in Jesus. The final words of Jesus from the cross say it all for us, “Is is accomplished!” Jesus is not overcome. On the contrary! He has overcome! When we go up to venerate the cross on Good Friday we should allow the cross to move us to be better people. Consoling, comforting and challenging the people we meet with the values of Jesus and the Cross.
How splendid is the Cross- of Christ!
It brings life, not death;
Light not darkness;
Paradise, not its loss.
It is the wood on which the Lord,
like a great warrior;
was wounded in hands, and feet and side,
but healed thereby our wounds.
A tree had destroyed us,
a tree now brought us life.
Theodore of Studios