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The feast of Maundy (or Holy) Thursday solemnly commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and is the oldest of the observances peculiar to Holy Week.

In Rome various accessory ceremonies were early added to this commemoration, namely the consecration of the holy oils and the reconciliation of penitents, ceremonies obviously practical in character and readily explained by the proximity of the Christian Easter and the necessity of preparing for it. Holy Thursday could not but be a day of liturgical reunion since, in the cycle of movable feasts, it brings around the anniversary of the institution of the Liturgy.

On that day, whilst the preparation of candidates was being completed, the Church celebrated the Missa chrismalis (Chrism Mass) and, moreover, proceeded to the reconciliation of penitents. In Rome everything was carried on in daylight, whereas in Africa on Holy Thursday the Eucharist was celebrated after the evening meal, in view of more exact conformity with the circumstances of the Last Supper.

Canon 24 of the Council of Carthage dispenses the faithful from fast before communion on Holy Thursday, because, on that day, it was customary take a bath, and the bath and fast were considered incompatible. St. Augustine, too, speaks of this custom (Ep. cxviii ad Januarium, n. 7); he even says that as certain persons did not fast on that day, the oblation was made twice, morning and evening, and in this way those who did not observe the fast could partake of the Eucharist after the morning meal, whilst those who fasted awaited the evening repast.

Holy Thursday was taken up with a succession of ceremonies of a joyful character. the baptism of neophytes, the reconciliation of penitents, the consecration of the holy oils, the washing of the feet, and commemoration of the Blessed Eucharist, and because of all these ceremonies, the day received different names, all of which allude to one or another of solemnities.

Redditio symboli was so called because, before being admitted to baptism, the catechumens had to recite the creed from memory, either in the presence of the bishop or his representative.

Pedilavium (washing of the feet), traces of which are found in the most ancient rites, occurred in many churches on Holy Thursday, the capitilavium (washing of the head) having taken place on Palm Sunday (St. Augustine, “Ep. cxviii, cxix”, e. 18).

Exomologesis, and reconciliation of penitents: letter of Pope Innocent I to Decentius of Gubbio, testifies that in Rome it was customary “quinta feria Pascha” to absolve penitents from their mortal and venial sins, except in cases of serious illness which kept them away from church (Labbe, “Concilia” II, col. 1247; St. Ambrose, “Ep. xxxiii ad Marcellinam”). The penitents heard the Missa pro reconciliatione paenitentium, and absolution was given them before the offertory. The “Sacramentary” of Pope Gelasius contains an Ordo agentibus publicam poenitentiam (Muratori, “Liturgia romana vetus”, I, 548-551).

Olei exorcizati confectio. In the fifth century the custom was established of consecrating on Holy Thursday all the chrism necessary for the anointing of the newly baptized. The “Comes Hieronymi”, the Gregorian and Gelasian sacramentaries and the “Missa ambrosiana” of Pamelius, all agree upon the confection of the chrism on that day, as does also the “Ordo romanus I”.

Anniversarium Eucharistiae. The nocturnal celebration and the double oblation early became the object of increasing disfavour, until in 692 the Council of Trullo promulgated a formal prohibition. The Eucharistic celebration then took place in the morning, and the bishop reserved a part of the sacred species for the communion of the morrow, Missa praesanctificatorum (Muratori, “Liturg. rom. Vetus”, II, 993).

Other observances. On Holy Thursday the ringing of bells ceases, the altar is stripped after vespers, and the night office is celebrated under the name of Tenebræ.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Jesus, I pray for the forgiveness of my sins. Help me to stray from evil and lead me to your path. I also pray for my wife and I, that we may be blessed with good health and the simple things in life. Heal us physically and spiritually. Bless my loved ones with good health and long life, especially my uncle who is suffering from lung and liver diseases. Please Lord, heal us and grant us your blessings. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

  2. Thought you might like some insight into the Da Vinci painting of The Last Supper. Some fun facts trying to pick out which Apostle is which

  3. PRAYER MEDITATION FOR HOLY THURSDAY
    My Most Precious Lord Jesus, this night You gathered with Your Apostles to share with them Your last meal. But this was no ordinary meal. This was the gift of Your most Sacred Body and Blood, soon to be broken and poured out on the Cross for the salvation of the world. Allow me, dear Lord, to spend this night in prayer and meditation with You. After the meal, You invited Your Apostles to join You for one hour, to stay awake and keep vigil as You prepared for Your arrest. The Apostles fell asleep, leaving You in Your bitter agony alone.

    I accept Your gentle invitation of love, dear Lord, to spend this night in vigil with You. May I enter Your Heart as it faced the coming persecution You were to endure for my sins. May I console Your Sacred Heart and know the love and Mercy that flowed forth. Lord, when I face the crosses of my own life, give me Your divine courage and strength to say “Yes” to the Will of the Father. Your love for me is abundant and is perfect in every way. Help me to know that love, to embrace it and to allow it into my life. I make my vigil with You this night, dear Lord. I love You, help me to love You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

  4. Washing of the feet,,,,,,,Jesus teaches us ,,,,,,He is humble! How human! When Jesus is our Lord and Savior!
    May Jesus Christ always be with us,,,May He always understand us,,,,,and May we learn and Live to Walk with HIM!!
    So thankful to God ,,,,,I have always been near our Lord,,,Jesus Christ,,,,and He is Close to me!
    With Deep Prayer, Constant Prayer, We will LEARN to UNDERSTAND HIM!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank GOD for E A S T E R !!!!!!!!! Jesus Christ is ALIVE and HERE for ALL of US ,,,,,,NO matter who we ARE!!!!!!

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