With the beginning of Holy Thursday Mass, Lent officially ends and the Triduum—the celebration of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection—begins. The Triduum is one liturgical act that begins with the opening procession of Holy Thursday Mass and continues uninterrupted until the closing procession of the Easter Vigil. The services on Good Friday, for example, have no official opening or closing because they are simply a continuation of the one prayer of the Triduum. During these three days, we will live and breathe the Paschal Mystery.
With Mass on Holy Thursday, in particular, the Church remembers the Last Supper at which Jesus offered us his body and blood in gifts of bread and wine. This Mass recalls the love by which Christ gave himself to us on the cross, and invites us to embrace and enact this love in service to one another.
Of the four Gospels, three depict the Last Supper as a meal at which Jesus broke bread and poured wine while blessing them, and gave them to his disciples, saying, “Do this in memory of me.” The Gospel of John, by contrast, presents a very different vision of the Last Supper—it is here that Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, and tells them, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Both accounts of the Last Supper tell us the same thing: in this meal and in this act of service, Jesus gave us one example of self-giving love that we are to follow. This example shows the inherent connection between the Eucharist we celebrate and the way we serve one another. Both are a participation in self-emptying divine love.
Holy Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday.” The title comes from the Latin word, mandatum, which means “commandment,” and refers to Jesus’ instructions to follow his example of love.
The Last Supper is depicted in South Dining Hall as a replication of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting. The footwashing scene depicted here is a painting that hangs outside of the chapel in St. Ed’s Hall. The reliquary chapel holds a piece of the table at which Jesus and his disciples gathered for the Last Supper.
On this Holy Thursday, let us empty ourselves in loving service to others, as Jesus taught us!