The Thursday before Easter is celebrated as Holy Thursday – this year observed on April 18th. It ends the 40 days of Lent and enters the Triduum (Latin for ‘three days’). The “Sacred ‘Three Days’ of the Triduum” begin on this evening and are a time of quiet, peace and glory. Gospel readings at services on this day focus on Jesus as the Teacher who humbly ’serves’ his disciples by an extraordinary gesture above and beyond the customs of hospitality — He washes their feet. Jesus’ teachings are reflected at services on Holy Thursday – in observance of the night before Jesus died.
Today, the priests of the church remove their vestments much as Jesus did at the Passover supper, and literally wash the feet of members of the church. In the thirteenth chapter of his gospel (John 13:1-17), John describes the character of Jesus. and how Jesus performed the feet washing on the very last night of his life. The foot washing is an act of love and an act of humility. Jesus was showing an example to his apostles of how His ministry represented by them should be one of humbleness and like that of a servant.
Jesus says of this in verses 13-15: “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. ” This describes how Jesus approached His relationship with God the Father. He was submissive to the Father whom we depend on for our very lives.
After the Passover Last Supper that evening, Jesus and His apostles went to the Garden of Gethsemane. There, Jesus, under pressure from his humanness, agonizes and asks his apostles to stay awake with him. They are exhausted and fall asleep, leaving him alone.
Jesus suffered very much in Gethsemane (Mark 14:50, Luke 22:54-62). Luke tells us that drops of blood fell from Jesus’ body. This was a crisis for Jesus. Jesus had always obeyed God his Father. And Jesus still wanted to obey God. But, In Matthew 26:39 he says, “My Father, if it is possible, do not let this happen. However, I want to do the things that you desire. I choose not to do the things that I desire.’ Judas entered the garden, kissed Jesus as a means of identification and Jesus was arrested. His trial and carrying of the cross to his crucifixion and death followed on the day that is observed as Good Friday.
The second most sacred day is Good Friday (this year observed on April 19th) the day that Jesus died. He was innocent, but political intervention from religious leaders who were frightened of his power among the people prevailed and they called for his crucifixion. Jesus’ apostles, disciples and followers believed He was the Messiah, as millions of his followers do today — over 2,000 years later.
On Good Friday, Mass is not celebrated anywhere in the world. Instead, the Lord’s Passion is celebrated usually in the afternoon denoting the time when Jesus died. This liturgy consists of three parts: The Liturgy of the Word, Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.
The Liturgy of the Word: These are readings read from Isaiah, Letters to the Hebrews, and the Passion from St. John’s Gospel. Special intercessions and prayers are said for the church, the unity of Christians, for those in special need and for those who do not believe in God.
Veneration of the Cross: The cross is held up in the midst of the congregation who come forward and individually give a sign of reverence or devotion for the symbolic meaning of the cross. Jesus Christ died for the sins of man and for their salvation and Christians believe that in acknowledgeing Jesus as the Messiah, they will be resurrected in death and join him in Heaven.
Holy Communion: Sacramental distribution of the Bread and Wine to the congregation as demonstrated by Jesus at the Last Supper to his disciples.
Although Good Friday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, most Catholic churches are filled to capacity for this observance of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. Saturday is a day of rest much as God rested from His Creation; it is Christ’s repose in the tomb; it is Christ’s visit with the dead.
The third Most Sacred Day is joyful – Easter Sunday, this year falls on April 21st. It rejoices with the faithful women at the tomb, then the disciples and eventually all running with the news that Christ has risen from the tomb . . . .This is the “Good News” of Christians all over the world. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ – He Lives.
© Marie Coppola Revised March 2017