Our Lenten observance continues until the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening. Three of our four Gospels tell the story of Jesus instituting the Eucharist by taking bread and wine, blessing them, and offering them to his disciples with the words, “Take and eat; this is my Body. Take and drink; this is my Blood.” John’s Gospel, on the other hand, tells of the Last Supper in terms of the washing of the feet of the disciples. At our Holy Thursday liturgy, we make the connection by ritually washing the feet of a number of disciples during our celebration of the institution of the Eucharist. The Gospel reading concludes with Jesus’ words: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
This Holy Thursday liturgy is the beginning of the Easter Triduum, or “three days.” Marking time in the ancient Jewish manner, from sunset to sunset, our first day is from Thursday at sunset to Friday at sunset; the second day from Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset; and the third day from Saturday at sunset to Sunday at sunset. Lent is officially over, and we enter into a different kind of time, a three-day movement from intimacy and mandate through suffering and death and finally to triumph over death and resurrection. Like a long drama, our three days of celebrations are arranged as if they are one continuous movement.
Holy Thursday ends with the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose, the stripping of the altar in the main church, and the solemn vigil before the Blessed Sacrament, keeping watch on this holy and scary night of betrayal and intrigue.