Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

This is the first day of the Azymes, or Feast of the Unleavened Bread. At sunset, the Jews must eat the Pasch in Jerusalem. Jesus is still in Bethania; but he will return to the City before the hour for the Paschal supper. The Law commands this; and, until he has abrogated the Law by the shedding of his Blood, he wishes to observe its ordinances. He therefore sends two of his Disciples to get everything ready for the Pasch, without, however, telling them the great Mystery, wherewith it is to terminate. We who know it, and that it was at this Last Supper that was instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we can understand why he sends Peter and John, in preference to any of the other Disciples, to prepare what is needed. Peter, who was the first to confess the Divinity of Jesus, represents Faith: and John, who leaned upon the breast of the Man-God, represents Love. The mystery, which is to be instituted at tonight’s Supper, is revealed to Love by Faith. It is this that Jesus would have us learn from this choice of the two Apostles; but they themselves see not the intention of their Master.

Jesus, who knew all things, tells them by what sign they are to know the house, which he intends to honor with his presence: they have but to follow a man, whom they will see carrying a pitcher of water. The house to which this man is going belongs to a rich Jew, who recognizes Jesus as the Messias. The two Apostles apprise him of their Master’s wishes; and immediately he puts at their disposal a large and richly furnished room. It was fitting that the place where the most august Mystery was to be instituted should be something above common. This Room, where the reality was to be substituted for all the ancient figures, was far superior to the Temple of Jerusalem. In it was to be erected the first Altar for the offering up of the clean oblation, foretold by the Prophet: in it was to commence the Christian Priesthood: in it, finally, fifty days later on, the Church of Christ, collected together and visited by the Holy Ghost, was to make herself known to the world, and promulgate the new and universal Covenant of God with men. This favored sanctuary of our Faith is still venerated on Mount Sion. The Infidels have profaned it by their false worship, for even they look on it as a sacred place; but as though Divine Providence, which has mercifully preserved unto us so many traces of our Redeemer, would give us an earnest of better days to come—this venerable sanctuary has been recently thrown open to several Priests of the Church, and they have even been permitted to offer up the Holy Sacrifice in the very place where the Eucharist was instituted.

During the course of the day, Jesus has entered Jerusalem with the rest of his Disciples: he has found all things prepared.

The Paschal Lamb, after being first presented in the Temple, has been brought to the house, where Jesus is to celebrate the Supper: it is prepared, together with the wild lettuce and the unleavened bread. In a few hours, the Divine Master and his Disciples will be standing around the table, their loins girt, and staves in their hands; and for the last time, they will observe the solemn rite prescribed by God to his people, when they first went forth from Egypt.

But let us wait for the hour of Mass before going further into the details of this Last Supper. Meanwhile, let us seek edification and instruction in two holy functions which belong to this great day. The first is the Reconciliation of Penitents, which, although not now in use, needs to be described, in order that our readers may have a proper idea of the Lenten Liturgy. The second is the Consecration of the Holy Oils, which is a ceremony confined to Cathedral Churches, but so interesting to the Faithful that we should have scrupled to have excluded it from our volume. After having briefly described these, we will return tot he history of the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament, and assist at Mass. Then we shall have to speak of the preparation for the Mass of the Presanctified for tomorrow’s service, of the Stripping the Altars, and of the Mandatum, or Washing of the Feet. We proceed, therefore, to explain these several ceremonies, which make Maundy Thursday to be one of the most sacred days of the Liturgical Year.

The Reconciliation of Penitents

Three solemn Masses were anciently celebrated on this day; and the first was preceded by the absolution of the public Penitents, and their readmission into the Church. The following was the order of the service for the Reconciliation of Penitents. They presented themselves at the Church door, clad in penitential garb, and barefooted. Their hair of both head and beard had been allowed to grow from Ash Wednesday, the day on which they had received their penance. The Bishop recited, in the sanctuary, the seven Psalms, in which David expresses his sorrow for having offended God. These were followed by the Litany of the Saints.

During these prayers, the Penitents were prostrate in the porch, for entrance into the Church was forbidden them. Thrice during the Litany, the Bishop deputed some of the clergy to go and visit them, in his name, and bear them words of hope and consolation. The first time, two Subdeacons went to them and said: As I live, saith the Lord, I will not the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live. The second time, two other Subdeacons were sent, with this message: Thus saith the Lord: Do penance; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Finally, a Deacon was commissioned to go to them, and say: Lift up your heads; lo! your redemption is nigh.

After these announcements of approaching pardon, the Bishop left the Sanctuary and went towards the Penitents, as far as half-way down the center nave, where was prepared a seat, turned towards the door which led into the porch, where the Penitents were still lying prostrate. The Pontiff being seated the Archdeacon addressed him in these words:

Venerable Pontiff! The acceptable time has come, the day of God’s mercy and of man’s salvation, when death was destroyed, and eternal life began. This is the time, when, in the vineyard of the Lord of Sabaoth, new plants are to be set, and the detestableness of the old growth is to be pruned away. For though there be no period of time, which is not rich in the goodness and mercy of God, yet now indulgence produces a more abundant remission of sins, and grace yields a more plentiful number of the regenerated. Those that are regenerated add to our ranks; those that return, increase our numbers. There is a laver of water; there is a laver of tears. From the one, there is joy because of the admittance of them that are called; from the other, there is gladness because of them that repent. Therefore it is, that these thy suppliant servants—after having fallen into sundry kinds of sins, by the neglect of the divine commandments, and the transgression of the moral law—humbled and prostrate, cry out to the Lord in these words of the Prophet: We have sinned: we have done unjustly; we have committed iniquity: have mercy on us, O Lord! It has not been in vain, that they have heard the words of the Gospel: Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted. As it is written, they have eaten the bread of sorrow; they have watered their couch with tears; they have afflicted their hearts with mourning, and their bodies with fasting, that thus they might recover the health of soul, which they had lost. The grace of penance, therefore, is one; but it profits each one that receives it, and gives help to all in common.

The Bishop then rose, and advanced towards the Penitents. He spoke to them concerning the mercy of God, and how they should live for the time to come. After this exhortation, he thus addressed them: Come, come, come, my children! I will teach you the fear of the Lord. The Choir then sang this Antiphon, taken from the 33rd Psalm: Come ye to him, and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be confounded. Hereupon, the Penitents got up, and, coming to the Bishop, threw themselves at his feet. The Archpriest then pleaded for them in these words:

Make good in them, O Apostolic Pontiff, all that has been corrupted in them by the temptation of the devil! By the merit of thy prayers and intercession, and by the grace of the divine reconciliation, bring these men nigh unto God. Thus, they who, heretofore, suffered by the sins they committed, may now be happy in the hope that, having overcome the author of their death, they may please the Lord, in the land of the living.

The Bishop answered: Knowest thou, if they be worthy of reconciliation? The Archpriest replied: I know, and bear witness, that they are worthy. A Deacon then ordered the Penitents to rise. This done, the Bishop took one of them by the hand, who did the same to his neighbor; and thus all, hand in hand, followed the Bishop to the place prepared in the center of the nave. Meanwhile, the Choir sang the following Antiphons: I say unto you, there is joy to the Angels of God over one sinner doing penance. It behoveth thee, my son, to rejoice; for thy brother was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and is found. The Bishop then offered up to God this prayer, which he sang to the solemn tone of the Preface.

It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, through Christ our Lord: Whom thou, O Almighty Father, didst will should be born among us by an ineffable Birth, that so he might pay to thee, his Eternal Father, the debt contracted by Adam, and put our death to death by his own, and bear our wounds in his own flesh, and cleanse away our stains by his Blood; hereby enabling us, who had fallen by the envy of the old enemy, to rise again by his mercy. Through him, O Lord, we suppliantly beseech and pray thee that thou mayest graciously hear us making intercession for the sins of others, who are not worthy to plead for our own. do thou, O most merciful Lord, recall to thyself, with thy wonted goodness, these thy servants, who have separated themselves from thee by their sins. For neither didst thou reject the most wicked Achab when he humbled himself before thee, but didst avert from him the punishment he had deserved. So, likewise, didst thou graciously hear Peter, when he wept, and didst afterwards give to him the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and thou didst promise the reward of that same kingdom to the Thief when he trusted in thee. Therefore, O most merciful Lord! mercifully welcome back these for whom we offer to thee our prayers, and restore them to the bosom of the Church, that the enemy may not triumph over them, but that they may be reconciled unto thee by thy co-equal Son, and by Him be cleansed from their guilt, and graciously admitted by Him to the banquet of thy most Holy Supper. May he in such wise refresh them by his Flesh and Blood, as to lead them, after this life’s course is run, to the kingdom of heaven.

After this Prayer, all, both clergy and laity, prostrated themselves, together with the Penitents, before the Divine Majesty, and recited the three Psalms which begin with the word Miserere (that is the 50th, the 55th, and the 56th). The Bishop then stood up, and said over the Penitents (who remained prostrate, as did also all the assistants), six Prayers, from which we select the following sentences.

Give ear, O Lord, to our supplications, and mercifully hear me, though I myself need mercy above all others. Thou hast chosen me to be the minister of this work, not from any merits thou didst see in me, but by the pure gift of thy grace. Grant me courage to fulfill my office, and do thou work, by my ministry, the effects of thine own mercy. It is thou that didst bring back, on thy shoulders, the lost sheep to the fold, and that didst mercifully hear the prayers of the Publican: do thou, also, restore to life these thy servants, whom thou wouldst not have die unto thee. O thou, who abandonest not them that are gone astray, receive these who have returned to thee. We beseech thee, O Lord, let the tearful sighs of these thy servants move thee to clemency: heal their wounds: stretch out thy saving hand to them, and raise them up. Permit not thy Church to be injured in any of her members: let not thy flock suffer loss; let not the enemy exult over the destruction of any of thy family, nor the second death lay hold of them that have been regenerated in the laver of salvation. Pardon, O Lord, these that confess their sins to thee: let them not fall into the punishments of the future judgment to come; let them never know the horrors of darkness or the torments of the flames of hell. They have returned from the way of error to the path of justice; let them not be again wounded, but maintain ever within themselves both what thy grace hath conferred upon them and what thy mercy hath reformed within them.

Having said these Prayers, the Bishop stretched forth his hands over the Penitents, and pronounced the Reconciliation, in this solemn formula:

May our Lord Jesus Christ, who vouchsafed to take away the sins of the whole world by delivering himself up for us, and shedding his spotless Blood; who, also, said unto his Disciples: whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven: and who hath numbered me, though unworthy, among these his ministers: may he deign, by the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, of the blessed Archangel Michael, of holy Peter the Apostle (to whom he gave the power of binding and loosing), and of all the Saints, to absolve you, by the merits of his Blood shed for the remission of sins, from all whatsoever you have negligently committed in thought, or word, or action; and, having loosed you from the bonds of sin, may he graciously lead you to the kingdom of heaven. Who, with God the Father, and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen.

The Bishop then advanced towards the Penitents, who were still lying prostrate: he sprinkled them with holy water, and thurified them. Finally, he addressed them in these words of the Apostle: Arise, ye that sleep! arise from the dead, and Christ shall enlighten you! The Penitents stood up; and, in order to express the joy they felt at being reconciled with their God, they immediately went and changed their penitential garb for one more in accordance with gladness, and with the Holy Communion they were now to receive together with the rest of the Faithful.

This Reconciliation of Penitents has given rise to the magnificent ceremony, which takes place at Rome on this day—the Papal Benediction. After Mass, the Sovereign Pontiff, vested in cope, and wearing the tiara, goes to the balcony over the center door of the Vatican Basilica. In the Piazza of Saint Peter’s, there stands an immense crowd of people, come from every country of the world, awaiting the appearance of the Vicar of Christ, who is about to grant them the remission of the punishment due to their sins. One of the Prelates, who surround the Pope’s throne, recites the usual form of the Confession of Sins; he recites it in the name of the assembly below, whom one and the same holy Faith has thus brought before the Father of the Christian World. After a few second of silence, the Pontiff beseeches God to show the riches of his Mercy upon the multitude, who have already purified their conscience in the Tribunal of reconciliation; he invokes upon them the assistance of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul; and then rising, he raises up his hands to heaven, as though to draw thence the treasures of eternal indulgence; and immediately lowering them, he blesses the assembled multitude. This Blessing (incorrectly called a blessing Urbi et Orbi, inasmuch as it is only given to the Faithful who are present at it), which grants a Plenary Indulgence to all that have fulfilled the requisite conditions, was originally given only on Maundy Thursday; afterwards, it was given also on Easter Sunday; and again, later on, was extended to two other days in the year, namely the Ascension (at Saint John Lateran), and the Assumption (at Saint Mary Major).

The Blessing of the Holy Oils

The second Mass which used, formerly, to be said on Maundy Thursday, was that of the Blessing of the Holy Oils. This holy function, which takes place but once each year, requires a Bishop as the consecrator. For now many centuries, this great ceremony is celebrated at the single Mass, which is said, on this day, in commemoration of our Lord’s Supper. As this Blessing only takes place in Cathedral Churches, we will not enter into each detail; and yet we would not deprive our readers of what they ought to know with regard to the Holy Oils. Faith teaches us that, as we are regenerated by water, so are we confirmed and fortified by oil; and that Oil is one of the chief elements chosen by the Divine Author of the Sacraments, whereby to signify and produce grace in our souls.

The reason of the Church’s selecting Maundy Thursday for the Blessing of the Holy Oils, was that they would be so much needed for the Baptism of the neophytes on Easter Eve. It behooves the Faithful to understand the mystery of those sacred elements. We will, therefore, briefly explain it to them, in order that we may excite their hearts to gratitude to our Blessed Lord, who has made material things the instruments of grace and, by his Blood, has given them the sacramental power which resides within them.

The first of the Holy Oils, that is, the first that is blessed by the Bishop, is the one called the Oil of the Sick. It is the matter of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. It takes away, from the dying Christian, the remnants of sin; it strengthens him in his last combat; and, by the supernatural power it possesses, sometimes restores to him the health of the body. Formerly, it used to be blessed on any day of the year, as often as required: but later on, its Blessing was fixed for this day, that thus the three Oils might be blessed all together. The Faithful should assist, with much devotion, at this ceremony; for the element that is thus sanctified, is one day to anoint and purify their bodies, sinking under sickness. Let them, as they see it being blessed, think upon their last hour, and praise the infinite goodness of their Savior, “whose blood streams so plentifully through this precious fluid.”

The noblest of the three Oils is the Chrism, and its consecration is more solemn, and fuller of mystery, than those of the other two. It is by the Chrism that the Holy Ghost imprints his indelible seal on the Christian, that has already been made a member of Christ by Baptism. The Water gives us our spiritual birth; the Chrism gives us strength; and, until such time as we have received its holy anointing, we have not as yet the perfect character of a Christian. Anointed with holy Oil, the Faithful has a visible sign given him of his being a member of the Man-God, whose name of Christ signifies the unction he has received both as King and Pontiff. This consecration of a Christian by Chrism is so much in accordance with the spirit of our holy Religion that, immediately after Baptism, the child receives upon its head an anointing (though it is not a sacramental one) of this Oil, to show that he is already a sharer of the kingly character of Jesus Christ.

In order to express, by an outward sign, the sacredness of Chrism, an Apostolic tradition requires the Bishop to mix Balm with it. This Balm represents what the Apostle calls the good odor of Christ, of whom it is written: We will run after thee, to the odor of thy ointments. The scarcity and high price of other perfumes has obliged the Latin Church to be content with Balm alone in the mixture of holy Chrism; but in the Eastern Church, where the climate is more favorable than ours, three and thirty species of precious perfumes are put into the Oil, and it thus becomes an ointment of exquisite fragrance.

The holy Chrism, besides its sacramental use in Confirmation, and its being put upon the head of the newly baptised, is also used by the Church in the consecration of her Bishops, in the consecration of Chalices and Altars, in the blessing of Bells, and in the Dedication of a Church, in which last most imposing ceremony, the Bishop pours out the Chrism on the twelve crosses, which are to attest to all succeeding ages, the glory of God’s House.

The third of the holy Oils is that which is called the Oil of Catechumens. Though it be not the matter of any Sacrament, it is, nevertheless, an Apostolic institution. Its blessing is less solemn than that of the Chrism, but more so than that of the Oil of the Sick. The Oil of Catechumens is used in the ceremonies of Baptism, for the anointing the breast and shoulders. It is also used for the anointing of a Priest’s hands in Ordination, and for the coronation of a King or Queen.

These few words of explanation will give the Faithful some idea of the importance of the Blessing of the holy Oils. By this threefold Blessing, says St. Fortunatus (in the beautiful Hymn, which is used during the ceremony), the Bishop acquits the debt he owes, and which none but he can pay.

The holy Church seldom employs such pomp as she does on this occasion. Twelve Priests, seven Deacons, and seven Subdeacons, are present. The Roman Pontifical tells us that the twelve Priests assist as witnesses and cooperators of the holy Chrism. The Mass commences, and goes on as far as the Prayer of the Canon, which immediately precedes the Pater noster. The Bishop then leaves the Altar, and goes to the place prepared for the Blessing. The first phial of Oil that is brought to him is that which is intended for the sick. He prefaces the blessing by pronouncing the words of exorcism over this oil, in order to drive from it the influence of the wicked spirits who, out of hatred for man, are ever seeking to infest the creatures given to us for our use. This done, he blesses it in these words:

We beseech thee, O Lord, send forth from heaven thy Holy Spirit the Paraclete upon this rich juice of the olive, which thou hast graciously produced from the green wood, for the solace of both mind and body. By thy holy blessing, may all they that are anointed with this ointment of heavenly virtue, receive help to mind and body; may it remove from them all pains, all infirmities, and all sickness of mind and body, for it was with oil that thou didst anoint thy Priests, Kings, Prophets, and Martyrs. May this, being blessed by thee, O Lord, become unto us an ointment of perfection, and abide within our whole being. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the seven Subdeacons then carries the phial back, and the Bishop returns to the Altar, and continues the Mass. As soon as he has given Holy Communion to the clergy, he returns to the place prepared for the blessing of the Oils. The twelve Priests, the seven Deacons, and the seven Subdeacons, repair to the place where the other two phials have been put. One contains the oil, which is to become the Chrism of salvation; the other, the oil which is to be sanctified as the oil of Catechumens. The procession is soon seen returning towards the Pontiff. The two phials are carried by two Deacons; a Subdeacon carries the vase of Balm. The Bishop begins by blessing the Balm: he calls it “the fragrant tear of dry bark—the oozing of a favored branch, that gives us the priestly unction.” Before proceeding to bless the oil of the Chrism, he thrice breathes upon it, in the form of a cross. The twelve Priests do the same. The Gospel tells us that our Blessed Savior used this same ceremony over his Apostles. It signifies the power of the Holy Ghost, and expresses his name, which is The Spirit. This Holy Spirit is about to make this oil become an instrument of his Divine power. The Bishop first prepares it for the heavenly dignity by exorcising it. He then celebrates the praises of the Chrism by this magnificent Preface, which has been handed down to us from the earliest ages of our faith.

It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God: who, in the beginning, among the rest of thy bounteous gifts, didst command the earth to yield fruitbearing trees, among which should be the olive, which produces this most rich liquor, and whose fruit was to serve for the making holy Chrism. Hence it was that David, foreknowing, by a prophetic spirit, the Sacraments of thy grace, sang that our faces were to be made glad with oil: and when the sins of the world were expiated of old, by the deluge, a dove announced that peace was restored to the earth, by bearing an olive-branch, the type of the gift to come, which has been manifested in these latter ages; for after the waters of Baptism have washed away the sins of men, this anointing of oil gave us joy and calm. Hence, too, thou didst command thy servant Moses to ordain his brother Aaron priest, by pouring oil upon him, after he had been cleansed with water. A greater honor still was, that when thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, bade John baptise him in the waters of the Jordan, thou didst send upon him the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove; that thus, by a voice that bore testimony, thou mightest designate thine Only Begotten Son, in whom thou wast well pleased, and mightest prove, beyond all doubt, that this was the fulfillment of what the Prophet David had foretold, when he sang, that he was to be anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. We, therefore, beseech thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, that thou vouchsafe to sanctify, by thy blessing, this thy creature oil, and infuse into it the virtue of the Holy Ghost, through the cooperating power of Christ, thy Son, from whose name it hath borrowed its own of Chrism, and wherewith thou didst anoint the Priests, Kings, Prophets, and Martyrs. Raise this Chrism into a Sacrament of perfect salvation and life, to them that are to be renewed by the spiritual laver of Baptism. That thus, the corruption of their first birth being absorbed by the infusion of this holy anointing, they may become a holy temple, redolent with the fragrance of the innocence of holy living. According to what thou hast appointed in this mystery, bestow upon them the honor of kings, priests, and prophets, by vesting them in the robe of incorruption. May this oil be to them, that are born again from water and the Holy Ghost, a Chrism of salvation, making them partakers of life everlasting, and co-heirs of heavenly glory.

The Bishop then takes the Balm; and having mixed it on a paten with a little oil, he pours it into the Phial. The consecration of the Chrism thus completed, he salutes it with these words: Hail, O Holy Chrism! This he does with the intention of honoring the Holy Ghost, who is to work by this sacramental oil. The same is done by each of the twelve Priests.

The Bishop then proceeds to bless the Oil of Catechumens. After having breathed upon it, and pronounced the exorcism (as before, in the blessing of the holy Chrism), he says this prayer:

O God, the rewarder of every spiritual increase and growth! who strengthenest the beginnings of weakly souls by the power of the Holy Ghost: we beseech thee, O Lord, that thou vouchsafe to pour out thy blessing upon this oil, and grant to them, that come to the laver of holy regeneration, the cleansing of soul and body, by the anointing they receive from this thy creature; that so, if there should be any stains fixed upon them by their spiritual enemies, they may be effaced by the touch of this holy oil. May the wicked spirits find no room there; may the powers, that have been put to flight, have no further sway; may there be no lurking place left to insidious evil ones. May thy servants that come to the faith, and are to be cleansed by the operation of thy Holy Spirit, find in this anointing a preparation for that salvation, which they are to receive in the Sacrament of Baptism, by the birth of a heavenly regeneration. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who is to come to judge the living, and the dead, and the world by fire. Amen.

The Bishop then salutes the Oil, on which he has conferred these wonderful prerogatives, saying: Haily, O holy Oil! The same act of reverence is repeated by each of the Priests. One of the deacons takes the Chrism, another the Oil of Catechumens, and a procession is again formed for taking them to the place prepared for them. They are covered with veils of silk—the holy Chrism, with white; the Oil of Catechumens, with purple.

We will conclude our outline of this imposing ceremony by giving our readers the beautiful Hymn, composed in the 6th century, by St. Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers. The Church has adopted it for the two processions, which we have already described.

Hymn

O Redemptor, sume carmen temet concinentium.

O Redeemer of mankind! receive the hymn of them that sing thy praise.

Repeat: O Redemptor.

Repeat: O Redeemer.

Audi, judex mortuorum,
Una spes mortalium,
Audi voces proferentum
Donum pacis prævium.

O judge of the dead! thou only hope of men! hear the prayers of them that carry the emblem of the gift of peace.

O Redemptor.

O Redeemer.

Arbor fœta alma luce
Hic sacrandum protulit:
Fert hoc prona præsens turba
Salvatori sæculi.

A tree made fruitful by the fostering sun, produced this oil that is now to be blessed, which we, the adorers of his holy name, bring to the Savior of the world.

O Redemptor.

O Redeemer.

Stans ad aram immo supplex
Infulatus Pontifex,
Debitum persolvit omne,
Consecrato Chrismate.

The mitred Pontiff, too, standing humbly before the altar, is about to pay his debt, by consecrating the Chrism.

O Redemptor.

O Redeemer.

Consecrare tu dignare,
Rex perennis patriæ,
Hoc olivum, signum vivum
Jura contra dæmonum.

O King of the everlasting kingdom! deign to consecrate this oil, this instrument of life, that breaks the demon’s power.

O Redemptor.

O Redeemer.

Ut novetur sexus omnis
Unctione Chrismatis,
Ut sanetur sauciata
Dignitatis gloria.

Men and women are renovated by the unction of the Chrism; and their glorious dignity, that had been wounded, is healed by the same.

O Redemptor.

O Redeemer.

Lota mente sacro fonte
Aufugantur crimina:
Uncta fronte, sacrosancta
Influunt charismata.

When the soul is washed in the sacred font, her crimes are put to flight: and holiest graces come upon them, whose brow is anointed with this oil.

O Redemptor.

O Redeemer.

Corde natus ex Parentis,
Alvum implens Virginis,
Præsta lucem, claude mortem
Chrismatis consortibus.

O thou the Son of the Eternal Father, and Son of the Virgin-Mother! grant light and life to us whom thou hast made to share in thine own anointing.

O Redemptor.

O Redeemer.

Sit hæc dies festa nobis
Sæculorum sæculis:
Sit sacrata, digna laude,
Nec senescat tempore.

May this day be to us an everlasting feast. May it be sacred, praiseworthy, nor grow old with time.

O Redemptor.

O Redeemer.

The Mass of Maundy Thursday

The Church intends, on this day, to renew, in a most solemn manner, the mystery of the Last Supper: for our Lord himself, on this occasion of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, said to his Apostles: Do this for a Commemoration of me. Let us, therefore, resume the Gospel narrative.

Jesus is in the Supper chamber, where the Paschal Lamb is to be eaten. All the Apostles are with him; Judas is there also, but his crime is not known to the rest. Jesus approaches the table on which the Lamb is to be served. His Disciples stand around him. The ceremonies prescribed by God to Moses are religiously observed. At the beginning of the repast, Jesus speaks these words to his Apostles: With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you, before I suffer. In saying this, he does not imply that the Pasch of this year is intrinsically better than those that have preceded it; but, that it is dearer to him, inasmuch as it is to give rise to the institution of the new Pasch, which he has prepared for mankind, and which he is now going to give them as his last gift: for as St. John says, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

During the repast, Jesus, who reads the hearts of all men, utters these words, which cause great consternation among the Disciples: Amen I say to you, that one of you is about to betray me:—he that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me. The sadness with which he speaks is enough to soften any heart; and Judas, who knows his Master’s goodness, feels that they imply a merciful pardon, if he will but ask it. But no: the passion of avarice has enslaved his soul, and he, like the rest of the Apostles, says to Jesus: Is it I, Rabbi? Jesus answers him in a whisper, in order not to compromise him before his brethren: Thou hast said it! But Judas yields not. He intends to remain with Jesus until the hour comes for betraying him. Thus, the august mystery, which is on the point of being celebrated, is to be insulted by his presence!

The legal repast is over. It is followed by a feast, which again brings the Disciples around their Divine Master. It was the custom in the East that guests should repose two and two on couches around the table; these have been provided by the disciple who has placed his house at Jesus’ service. John is on the same couch as Jesus, so that it is easy for him to lean his head upon his Master’s breast. Peter is on the next couch, on the other side of Jesus, who is thus between the two Disciples whom he had sent, in the morning, to prepare the Pasch, and who, as we have already observed, represent Faith and Love. This second repast is a sorrowful one, in consequence of Jesus having told the guests that one of them is a traitor. The innocent and affectionate John is overwhelmed with grief, and seeks consolation on the Heart of this dear Lord, whom someone is about to deliver to his enemies.

But the Apostles little expect a third Supper. Jesus has not told them of his intention; but he had made a promise, and he would fulfill it before his Passion. Speaking one day to the people, he had said: I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever, and the Bread that I will give, is my Flesh for the life of the world … My Flesh is meat indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood, abideth in me, and I in him. The time has come for the fulfillment of this his loving promise. But as it was both his Flesh and his Blood that he promised us, he waited till the time of his sacrifice. His Passion has begun; he is sold to his enemies; his life is already in their hands—he may at once, therefore, offer himself in sacrifice, and give to his Disciples the very Flesh and Blood of the Victim.

As soon as the second repast was over, Jesus suddenly rises and, to the astonishment of his Apostles, takes off his upper garments, girds himself, as a servant, with a towel, pours water into a basin, and prepares to wash the feet of the guests. It was the custom, in the East, to wash one’s feet before taking part in a feast; it was considered as the very extreme of hospitality when the master of the house himself did this service to his guest. Jesus is about to regale his Apostles with a Divine Banquet; he wishes to treat them with every possible mark of welcome and attention. But in this, as in every other action of his, there is a fund of instruction: he would teach us, by what he is now doing, how great is the purity wherewith we should approach the Holy Table. He that is washed, says he, needeth not but to wash his feet; as though he would say: “The holiness of this Table is such that they who come to it should not only be free from grievous sins, but they should, moreover, strive to cleanse their souls from those lesser faults which come from contact with the world, and are like the dust that covers the feet of one that walks on the highway.” We will explain further on the teachings conveyed by this action of our Lord.

It is with Peter, the future Head of his Church, that Jesus begins. The Apostle protests; he declares that he will never permit his Master to humble himself so low as this: but he is obliged to yield. The other Apostles (who, as Peter himself, are reclining upon their couches), receive the same mark of love: Jesus comes to each of them in turn, and washes their feet. Judas is not excepted: he has just received a second warning from his merciful Master; for Jesus, addressing himself to all the Apostles, said to them: You are clean; but not all: but the reproach produced no effect upon this hardened heart. Having finished washing the feet of the Twelve, Jesus resumes his place, side by side with John.

Then taking a piece of the unleavened bread that had remained over from the feast, he raises his eyes to heaven, blesses the bread, breaks it, and distributes it to his Disciples, saying to them: Take ye, and eat; this is my Body. The Apostles take the bread, which is now changed into the Body of their Divine Master; they eat;—and Jesus is, now, not only with them, but in them. But as this sacred mystery is not only the most holy of the Sacraments, but, moreover, a true Sacrifice; and as a Sacrifice requires the shedding of blood—our Jesus takes the cup, and changing the wine into his own Blood, he passes it around to his Disciples, saying to them: Drink ye, all, of this; for this is my Blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many, unto remission of sins. The Apostles drink from the sacred chalice thus proffered them; when it comes to Judas, he too partakes of it, but he drinks his own damnation, as he ate his own judgment, when he received the Bread of Life. Jesus, however, mercifully offers the traitor another grace, by saying, as he gives the Cup to his Disciples: The hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.

Peter is struck by Jesus thus frequently alluding to the crime which is to be committed by one of the Twelve. He is determined to find out who the traitor is. Not daring himself to ask Jesus, at whose right hand he is sitting, he makes a sign to John, who is on the other side, and begs him to put the question. John leans on Jesus’ breast, and says to him in a whisper: Lord, who is it? Jesus answers him in an equally suppressed tone: He to whom I shall reach bread dipped. And having taken one of the pieces of bread that remained over from the repast, he dipped it, and gave it to Judas. It was one more grace offered and refused, for the Evangelist adds: And after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus again addresses him, saying: That which thou dost, do quickly. The wretch then leaves the room, and sets about the perpetration of his crime.

Such is the history of the Last Supper, of which we celebrate the anniversary on this day. But there is one circumstance of the deepest interest to us, and to which we have, so far, only made an indirect allusion. The institution of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and Sacrifice, is followed by another—the institution of a new Priesthood. How could our Savior have Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his Blood, you shall not have life in you,—unless he had resolved to establish a ministry upon earth whereby he would renew, even to the end of time, the great Mystery he thus commands us to receive? He begins it today, in the Cenacle. The twelve Apostles are the first to partake of it: but observe what he says to them: Do this for a commemoration of me. By these words, he gives them power to change bread into his Body, and wine into his Blood; and this sublime power shall be perpetuated in the Church, by holy Ordination, even to the end of the world. Jesus will continue to operate, by the ministry of mortal and sinful men, the Mystery of the Last Supper. By thus enriching his Church with the one and perpetual Sacrifice, he also gives us the means of abiding in him, for he gives us, as he promised, the Bread of heaven. Today, then, we keep the anniversary not only of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, but also of the equally wonderful Institution of the Christian Priesthood.

To offer the Faithful an outward expression of the greatness and the unity of this Supper, which our Savior gave to his Disciples, and, through them, to us—the Church forbids her Priests to say private Masses on this day, except in cases of necessity. She would have but one Sacrifice to be offered in each church, at which the other Priests are to assist, and receive Holy Communion from the hands of the Celebrant. When approaching the Altar, they put on the Stole, the emblem of their Priesthood.

The Mass of Maundy Thursday is one of the most solemn of the year; and although the Feast of Corpus Christi is the day for the solemn honoring the mystery of the Holy Eucharist—still, the Church would have the anniversary of the Last Supper to be celebrated with all possible splendor. The color of the vestments is white, as it is for Christmas Day and Easter Sunday; the decorations of the Altar and Sanctuary all bespeak joy: and yet, there are several ceremonies during this Mass which show that the holy Spouse of Christ has not forgotten the Passion of her Jesus, and that this joy is but transient. The Priest intones the Angelic Hymn, Glory be to God in the highest! and the Bells ring forth a joyous peal, which continues during the whole singing of the heavenly Canticle: but from that moment, they remain silent, and their long silence produces, in every heart, a sentiment of holy mournfulness. But why does the Church deprive us, for so many hours, of the grand melody of these sweet bells, whose voices cheer us during the rest of the year? It is to show us that this world lost all its melody and joy when its Savior suffered and was crucified. Moreover, she would hereby remind us how the Apostles (who were the heralds of Christ, and are figured by the Bells, whose ringing summons the Faithful to the House of God), fled from their Divine Master and left him a prey to his enemies.

The Holy Sacrifice continues as usual; but at the solemn moment of the Elevation of the Holy Host and the Chalice of Salvation, the Bell is silent, and outside the Church, there is not given to the neighborhood the usual signal of the descent of Jesus upon the Altar. When the time of the holy Communion is near, the Priest does not give the Kiss of Peace to the Deacon, who, according to the Apostolic tradition, should transmit it, by the Subdeacon, to those that are about to communicate. Our thoughts turn to the traitor Judas, who, on this very day, profaned the sign of friendship by making it an instrument of death. It is out of detestation for this crime that the Church omits today the sign of fraternal charity—it would too painfully remind us of sacrilegious hypocrisy.

Another rite peculiar to today is the Priest’s consecrating two Hosts during the Mass. One of these he receives in Communion; the other he reserves, and reverently places it in a Chalice, which he covers with a veil. The reason of this is that tomorrow, the Church suspends the daily Sacrifice. Such is the impression produced by the anniversary of our Savior’s Death, that the Church dares not to renew, upon her Altars, the immolation which was then offered on Calvary—or rather, her renewal of it will be by the fixing all her thoughts on the terrible scene of that Friday Noon. The Host reserved from today’s Mass will be her morrow’s participation. This rite is called the Mass of the Presanctified, because, in it, the Priest does not consecrate, but only receives the Host consecrated on the previous day. Formerly, as we shall explain more fully further on, the holy Sacrifice was not offered up on Holy Saturday, and yet the Mass of the Presanctified was not celebrated, as it was on the Friday.

But although the Church suspends, for a few short hours, the oblation of the perpetual Sacrifice, she would not that her Divine Spouse should lose aught of the homage that is due to him in the Sacrament of his Love. Catholic piety has found a means of changing these trying hours into a tribute of devotion to the Holy Eucharist. In every Church is prepared a richly ornamented side-chapel or pavilion where, after today’s Mass, the Church places the Body of her Divine Lord. Though veiled from their view, the Faithful will visit him in this his holy resting place, pay him their most humble adorations, and present him their most fervent supplications. Wheresoever the Body shall be, there shall the eagles be gathered together. In every part of the Catholic world, a concert of prayer, more loving and earnest than at any other period of the Year, will be offered to our Jesus, in reparation for the outrages he underwent, during these very hours, from the Jews. Around this anticipated Tomb will be united both his long-tried and fervant servants, and those who are newly converted, or are preparing for their reconciliation.

At Rome, the Station is in the Lateran Basilica. The metropolitan Church both of the Holy City and the World was deservedly chosen for this great Day of the Reconciliation of Sinners and the Consecration of the Chrism. The Papal function, however, now takes place at the Vatican; and as we have already stated, the Apostolic Benediction is given by the Sovereign Pontiff from the loggia of Saint Peter’s.

Mass.—In the Introit, the Church makes use of the words of St. Paul, in praise of the Cross of Christ. She is filled with gratitude for this her Redeemer, who has made himself our Salvation, by dying for us; our Life, by the Bread of Heaven he has given us; and our Resurrection, by his having risen from the grave.

Introit

Nos autem gloriari oportet in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi, in quo est salus, vita, et resurrectio nostra: per quem salvati, et liberati sumus.

We ought to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection: by whom we have been saved and delivered.

Ps. Deus misereatur nostri, et benedicat nobis, illuminet vultum suum super nos, et misereatur nostri.

Ps. May God have mercy on us, and bless us: may his countenance shine upon us, and may he have mercy on us.

We ought.

Nos autem.

In the Collect, the Church reminds us of Judas and the Good Thief: both are guilty: and yet, the one is condemned, the other is pardoned. She prays for us to God, that the Passion of his Son (during which were thus shown the Divine Justice and Mercy) may procure us the forgiveness of our sins and the fullness of grace.

Collect

Deus, a quo et Judas reatus sui pœnam, et confessionis suæ latro præmium sumpsit: concede nobis tuæ propitiationis effectum: ut sicut in passione sua Jesus Christus Dominus noster diversa utrisque intulit stipendia meritorum, ita nobis, ablato vetustatis errore, resurrectionis suæ gratiam largiatur. Qui tecum.

O God, from whom both Judas received the punishment of his sin, and the Thief the reward of his confession: grant us the effects of thy mercy; that as our Lord Jesus Christ, at the time of his Passion, bestowed on both different rewards according to their merits; so, having destroyed the old man in us, he may give us grace to rise again with him. Who liveth, &c.

Epistle
Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios. Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.
I. Cap. XI. I. Ch. XI.

Fratres: Convenientibus vobis in unum, jam non est Dominicam Cœnam manducare. Unusquisque enim suam cœnam præsumit ad manducandum. Et alius quidem esurit: alius autem ebrius est. Numquid domos non habetis ad manducandum et bibendum? Aut Ecclesiam Dei contemnitis, et confunditis eos, qui non habent? Quid dicam vobis? Laudo vos? In hoc non laudo. Ego enim accepi a Domino, quod et tradidi vobis: quoniam Dominus Jesus in qua nocte tradebatur, accepit panem, et gratias agens fregit, et dixit: Accipite et manducate: hoc est Corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur; hoc facite in meam commemorationem. Similiter et calicem postquam cœnavit, dicens: Hic calix novum testamentum est in meo Sanguine. Hoc facite quotiescumque bibetis, in meam commemorationem. Quotiescumque enim manducabitis panem hunc, et calicem bibetis, mortem Domini annuntiabitis donec veniat. Itaque quicumque manducaverit panem hunc, vel biberit calicem Domini indigne, reus erit Corporis et Sanguinis Domini. Probet autem seipsum homo, et sic de pane illo edat, et de calice bibat. Qui enim manducat et bibit indigne, judicium sibi manducat et bibit, non dijudicans Corpus Domini. Ideo inter vos multi infirmi et imbecilles, et dormiunt multi. Quod si nosmetipsos dijudicaremus, non utique judicaremur. Dum judicamur autem, a Domino corripimur, ut non cum hoc mundo damnemur.

Brethren: When you come therefore together into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord’s supper. For every one taketh before his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry, and another is drunk. What, have you not houses to eat and drink in? Or despise ye the Church of God, and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye and eat: this is my Body which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This Chalice is the New Testament in my Blood: this do ye, as often as ye shall drink it, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep. But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.

After having rebuked the Christians of Corinth for the abuses into which they had fallen at the Feasts (called Agape) which had been introduced by a spirit of fraternal charity but were soon abolished—the holy Apostle relates the history of the Last Supper. His account, which corresponds throughout with that given by the Evangelists, rests upon the testimony of our Blessed Savior himself, who deigned to appear to him, and instruct him in person after his conversion. The Apostle does not omit to give the words whereby our Lord empowered his Apostles to renew what he himself had done: he tells us that as often as the Priest consecrates the Body and Blood of Christ, he shows the Death of the Lord, thus expressing the oneness there is between the Sacrifice of the Cross and that of the Altar. We have explained this important doctrine in the 6th Chapter of the introduction to this present Volume. The consequences to be drawn from this teaching is evident; it is contained in these words of the Apostle: Let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. What could be more just than that having to be initiated in so intimate a manner, with the Mystery of Redemption, and contract so close a union with the Divine Victim—we should banish from our hearts sin and affection to sin? He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood, abideth in me, and I in him, says our Lord. Could there be a closer union? God and man abiding in each other! Oh! how carefully ought we not to purify our soul, and render our will conformable with the will of Jesus, before approaching this Divine Banquet, to which he invites us! Let us beseech him to prepare us himself, as he did his Apostles, by washing their feet. He will grant us our request not only today, but as often as we go to Holy Communion, provided we are docile to his grace.

The Gradual is made up of those admirable words, which the Church so often repeats during these three days, and by which St. Paul warns us to gratitude towards the Son of God, who delivered himself up for us.

Gradual

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortam autem crucis.

Christ became, for our sakes, obedient unto death, even to death of the Cross.

℣. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum, et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.

℣. For which cause, God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name, which is above all names.

Collect
Gospel
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem. Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
Cap. XIII. Ch. XIII.

Ante diem festum Paschæ, sciens Jesus, quia venit hora ejus, ut transeat ex hoc mundo ad Patrem: cum dilexisset suos, qui erant in mundo, in finem dilexit eos. Et cœna facta, cum diabolus jam misisset in cor, ut traderet eum Judas Simonis Iscariotæ: sciens quia omnia dedit ei Pater in manus, et quia a Deo exivit et ad Deum vadit, surgit a cœna, et ponit vestimenta sua. Et cum accepisset linteum, præciuxit se. Deinde misit aquam in pelvim, et cœpit lavare pedes discipulorum, et extergere linteo, quo erat præcinctus. Venit ergo ad Simonem Petrum, et dicit ei Petrus: Domine, tu mihi lavas pedes? Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Quod ego facio, tu nescis modo: scies autem postea. Dicit ei Petrus: Non lavabis mihi pedes in æternum. Respondit ei Jesus: Si non lavero te, non habebis partem mecum. Dicit ei Simon Petrus: Domine, non tantum pedes meos, sed et manus et caput. Dicit ei Jesus: Qui lotus est, non indiget nisi ut pedes lavet, sed est mundus totus. Et vos mundi estis, sed non omnes. Sciebat enim quisman esset qui traderet eum; propteres dixit: Non estis mundi omnes. Postquam ergo lavit pedes eorum, accept vestimenta sua: et cum recubuisset iterum, dixit eis: Scitis quid fecerim vobis? Vos vocatis me Magister et Domine: et bene dicitis: sum etenim. Si ergo ego lavi pedes vestros, Dominus et Magister, et vos debetis alter alterius lavare pedes. Exemplum enim dedi vobis, ut quemadmodum ego feci vobis, ita et vos faciatis.

Before the festival day of the Pasch, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And when supper was done (the devil having now put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him), knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands, and that he came from God and goeth to God: he riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments, and having taken a towel, girded himself. After that, he putteth water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. He cometh therefore to Simon Peter. And Peter saith to him: Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered, and said to him: What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith to him: Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me. Simon Peter saith to him: Lord not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him: He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all. For he knew who he was that would betray him: therefore he said: You are not all clean. Then after he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, being set down again, he said to them: Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master, and Lord: and you say well, for so I am. If then I, being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so do you also.

Our Savior’s washing the feet of his Disciples before permitting them to partake of his Divine Mystery, conveys an instruction to us. The Apostle has just been telling us that we should prove ourselves: and here, we have Jesus saying to his Disciples: You are clean. It is true, he adds: but not all: just as the Apostle assures us that there are some who render themselves guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. God forbid we should ever be of the number! Let us prove ourselves; let us sound the depths of our conscience, before approaching the Holy Table. Mortal sin, and the affection to mortal sin, would change the Bread of Life into a deadly poison for our souls. But if respect for the holiness of God, who is about to enter within us by Holy Communion, should make us shudder at the thought of our receiving him in the state of mortal sin, which robs the soul of the image of God and gives her that of Satan—ought not that same respect urge us to purify our souls from venial sins, which dim the beauty of grace? He, says our Savior, that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet. The feet are those earthly attachments, which so often lead us to the brink of sin. Let us watch over our senses, and the affections of our hearts. Let us wash away these stains by a sincere confession, by penance, by sorrow, and by humility; that thus we may worthily receive the Adorable Sacrament, and derive from it the fullness of its power and grace.

In the Offertory-Antiphon, the Soul—confiding in the promise made to her by Christ, that he will feed her with the Bread of Life—gives way to a transport of joy. She praises her God for this Divine nourishment, which keeps death from them that eat.

Offertory

Dextera Domini fecit virtutem, dextera Domini exaltavit me; non moriar, sed vivam, et narrabo opera Domini.

The right hand of the Lord hath displayed its might: the right hand of the Lord hath raised me up; I shall not die, but live, and publish the works of the Lord.

In the Secret, the Church reminds our Heavenly Father that it was on this very day that was instituted the august Sacrifice which she is now celebrating.

Secret

Ipse tibi, quæsumus, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, sacrificium nostrum reddat acceptum, qui Discipulis suis in sui commemorationem hoc fieri hodierna traditione monstravit, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster: Qui tecum.

We beseech thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, that our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, may make our sacrifice acceptable to thee, who on this day commanded his disciples to celebrate it in memory of him. Who liveth, &c.

After the Priest has received under both kinds, he puts into a Chalice the Host reserved for tomorrow: he then gives Communion to the Clergy and, afterwards, to the Laity. As soon as the Communion is finished, the Choir sings the following Antiphon, which tells us how Jesus prepared his Disciples for the great Mystery by humbly washing their feet.

Communion

Dominus Jesus postquam cœnavit cum Discipulis suis, lavit pedes euroum, et ait illis: Scitis quid federim vobis, ego Dominus et Magister? Exemplum dedi vobis, ut et vos ita faciatis.

The Lord Jesus, after he had supped with his disciples, washed their feet, and said to them: Do you understand what I have done to you, I your Lord and Master? I have set you an example, that you may do the same.

Our holy Mother prays for us in the Postcommunion, that we may preserve in ourselves, for all eternity, the Divine Gift just bestowed upon us.

Postcommunion

Refecti vitalibus alimentis, quæsumus, Domine Deus noster: ut quod tempore nostræ mortalitatis exsequimur, immortalitatis tuæ munere consequamur. Per Dominum.

We beseech thee, O Lord, our God, that being nourished with this life-giving food, we may receive by thy grace, in immortal glory, what we celebrate in this mortal life. Through, &c.

As soon as the Mass is over, a Procession is formed to the place prepared for the sacred Host, which is to be reserved for the morrow. The Celebrant carries it beneath a canopy, as on the Feast of Corpus Christi; it is now however exposed, as on that day of its Triumph, but concealed in a chalice closely veiled. Let us adore this Diving Sun of Justice, whose rising at Bethlehem brought gladness to our hearts: he is now near his setting: a few hours more, and his Light will be eclipsed. Our earth will then be buried in gloom until, on the third day, he will rise again with renewed splendor.

During the Procession, the Choir sings the well-known Hymn of the Blessed Sacrament.

Hymn

Pange, lingua, gloriosi
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
Quem in mundi pretium,
Fructus ventris generosi,
Rex effudit gentium.

Sing, my tongue, the Mystery of the glorious Body and precious Blood!—that Blood which the King of all nations, the Fruit of Mary’s womb, shed for the world’s redemption.

Nobis datus, nobis natus
Ex intacta Virgine,
Et in mundo conversatus,
Sparso verbi semine,
Sui moras incolatus
Miro clausit ordine.

He gave himself to us; for us was he born from a pure Virgin; he lived among men, sowing the seed of his word, and closed his career on earth by a gift of wondrous love.

In supremæ nocte cœnæ
Recumbens cum fratribus,
Observata lege plene
Cibis in legalibus,
Cibum turbæ duodenæ
Se dat suis manibus.

On the night of the Last Supper, he assembled his Brethren around him; and having observed the law, and eaten the Pasch prescribed, he, with his own hands, gave himself to the Twelve, as their Food.

Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem efficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum:
Et si sensus deficit,
Ad firmandum cor sincerum
Sola fides suffit.

The Word made Flesh changes bread, by his word, into his own Flesh, and the Wine becomes the Blood of Christ. Our senses fail us here: but Faith has power to take all wavering from the Christian heart.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Præstat fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

Let us, therefore, venerate this great Sacrament in prostrate adoration! Let the ancient form give place to the new rite! Let Faith supply what the senses cannot give.

Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio. Amen.

Be praise and jubilee to the Father and the Son! Salvation, honor, power, yea and benediction, be to them; and to the Spirit that proceeds from both, be one co-equal praise! Amen.

Having reached the place prepared, the Priest places the Chalice upon the Altar, and censes the Sacred Host. The Deacon takes the Chalice, and puts it in the Tabernacle. After a short prayer in silence, the Procession returns to the Choir, and Vespers are immediately begun. This Office, which, on Feast Days, is celebrated with so much solemnity is, today and tomorrow, deprived of everything that betokens joy. The Psalms are recited, without the slightest chant or even inflection. The Church, as a disconsolate widow, mourns the loss of her Jesus.

The Stripping the Altars

As soon as Vespers are over, the Celebrant returns to the Sanctuary, assisted by the Deacon and Subdeacon. He goes to the Altar, and takes off the cloths and ornaments. This ceremony signifies the suspension of the Holy Sacrifice. The Altar should be left in this denuded state, until the daily offering can be again presented to the Divine Majesty; that is, when the Spouse of the holy Church shall arise from the Grave, the Conqueror of Death. He is now in the Hands of his enemies, the Jews, who are about to strip him of his garments, just as we strip the Altar. He is to be exposed naked to the insults of the rabble: and for this reason, the Psalm selected to be recited during this mournful ceremony is the 21st, wherein the Messias speaks of the Roman Soldiers’ dividing his garments among them.

Ant. Diviserunt sibi vestimenta mea, et super vestem meam miserunt sortem.

Ant. They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they cast lots.

Psalm 21

Deus, Deus meus, respice in me: quare me dereliquisti: * Longe a salute mea verba delictorum meorum.

O God, my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.

Deus meus, clamabo per diem, et non exaudies: * et nocte, et non ad insipientiam mihi.

O my God, I shall cry by day, and thou wilt not hear: and by night, and it shall not be reputed as folly in me.

Tu autem in sancto habitus: * Laus Israël.

But thou dwellest in the holy place, the praise of Israel.

In te speraverunt patres nostri: * speraverunt, et liberasti eos.

In thee have our fathers hoped: they have hoped and thou hast delivered them.

Ad te clamaverunt, et salvi facti sunt: * in te speraverunt, et non sunt confusi.

They cried to thee, and they were saved: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

Ego autem sum vernis, et non homo: * opprobrium hominum, et abjectio plebis.

But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.

Omnes videntes me deriserunt me: * locuti sunt labiis, et moverunt caput.

All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.

Speravit in Domino, eripiat eum: * salvum faciat eum, quoniam vult eum.

He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighted in him.

Quoniam tu es, qui extraxisti me de ventre: * spes mea ab uberibus matris meæ. In te projectus sum ex utero.

For thou art he that hast drawn me out of the womb: my hope from the breasts of my mother. I was cast upon thee from the womb.

De ventre matris meæ Deus meus es tu: * ne discesseris a me.

From my mother’s womb thou art my God, depart not from me.

Quoniam tribulatio proxima est: * quoniam non est qui adjuvet.

For tribulation is very near: for there is none to help me.

Circumdederunt me vituli multi: * tauri pingues obsederunt me.

Many calves have surrounded me: fat bulls have besieged me.

Aperuerunt super me os suum: * sicut leo rapiens et rugiens.

They have opened their mouths against me, as a lion ravening and roaring.

Sicut aqua effusus sum: * et dispersa sunt omnia ossa me.

I am poured out like water: and all my bones are scattered.

Factum est cor meum tamquam cera liquiescens: * in medio ventris mei.

My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels.

Aruit tamquam testa virtus mea, et lingua mea, adhæsit faucibus meis: * et in pulverem mortis deduxisti me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaven to my jaws: and thou hast brought me down into the dust of death.

Quoniam circumdederunt me canes multi: * concilium malignantium obsedit me.

For many dogs have encompassed me: the council of the malignant hath besieged me.

Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos: * dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea.

They have dug my hands and feet: they have numbered all my bones.

Ipsi vero consideraverunt et inspexerunt me: * diviserunt sibi vestimenta mea, et super vestem meam miserunt sortem.

And they have looked and stared upon me: they parted my garments amongst them, and upon my vesture they cast lots.

Tu autem, Domine, ne elongaveris auxilium tuum a me: * ad defensionem meam conspice.

But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me: look towards my defense.

Erue a frames, Deus, animam meam: * et de manu ean is unicam meam.

Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword: my only one from the hand of the dog.

Salva me ex ore leonis: * et a cornibus unicornium humilitatem meam.

Save me from the lion’s mouth: and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns.

Narrabo nomen tuum fratribus meis: * in medio ecclesiæ laudabo te.

I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee.

Qui timetis Dominum, laudate eum: * universum semen Jacob, glorificate eum.

Ye that fear the Lord, praise him: all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him.

Timeat eum omne semen Israël: * quoniam non sprevit, neque despexit deprecationem pauperis.

Let all the seed of Israel fear him: because he hath not slighted nor despised the supplication of the poor man.

Nec avertit faciem suam a me: et cum clamarem ad eum, exaudivit me.

Neither hath he turned away his face from me: and when I cried to him he heard me.

Apud te laus me in ecclesia magna: * vota mea reddam in conspectu timentium eum.

With thee is my praise in the great church: I will pay vows in the sight of them that fear him.

Edent pauperes, et saturabuntur, et laudabunt Dominum qui requirunt eum: * vivent corda eorum in sæculum sæculi.

The poor shall eat, and shall be filled, and they shall praise the Lord that seek him: their hearts shall live for ever and ever.

Reminiscentur, et convertentur ad Dominum: * universi fines terræ.

All the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted to the Lord.

At adorabunt in conspectu ejus: * universæ famili&æ gentium.

And all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in his sight.

Quoniam Domini est regnum: * et ipse dominabitur gentium.

For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he shall have dominion over the nations.

Manducaverunt, et adoraverunt omnes pingues terr&aelig: * in conspectu ejus cadent omnes, qui descendunt in terram.

All the fat ones of the earth have eaten and have adored: all they that go down to the earth, shall fall before him.

Et anima mes illi vivet: * et semen meum serviet ipsi.

And to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him.

Annuntiabitur Domino generatio ventura: * et annuntiabunt cœli justitiam ejus, populo qui nascetur quem fecit Dominus.

There shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall show forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made.

Ant. Diviserunt sibi vestimenta mea, et super vestem meam miserunt sortem.

Ant. They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they cast lots.

After having stripped the High Altar, the Celebrant takes off the Cloths from the other Altars that are in the Church. And air of desolation pervades the Temple of God. The very Tabernacle has lost its Divine Guest. The Ciborium (in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved for Viaticum) has been taken to the place where reposes the Chalice containing the Body of our Lord. The Majesty of our God has withdrawn to that mysterious Sanctuary, into which we enter not but with silence and compunction.

It was the custom in some Churches for the Priest to wash, in the afternoon, the Altars with wine and water, which he sprinkled upon them with a branch of hyssop. This ceremony (which has now ceased to be observed in almost every Church, excepting at St. Peter’s, in Rome) was intended as an homage offered to our Blessed Lord, in return for the humility wherewith he deigned to wash the feet of his Disciples. We find it so explained by St. Isidore of Seville, and St. Eligius, Bishop of Noyon.

The Washing of the Feet

After having, on this day, washed the feet of his Disciples, Jesus said to them: Know ye what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord: and you say well, for so I am. If then I, being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you, also, ought to wash one an other’s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. Although the meaning of these words is that after the example of our Divine Master, we should practice works of fraternal charity towards our neighbor—yet the literal imitation of this our Savior’s act has always been observed in the Church.

At the commencement, it was almost a daily practice. St. Paul, when mentioning the qualities which should adorn the Christian Widow, includes that of washing the feet of the Saints, that is, of the Faithful. We find this act of humble charity practiced in the Ages of Persecution, and even later. The Acts of the Saints of the first six centuries, and the Homilies and Writings of the Holy Fathers, are filled with allusions to it. Afterwards, charity grew cold, and this particular way of exercising it was confined, almost exclusively, to Monasteries. Still, from time to time, it was practiced elsewhere. We occasionally find Kings and Queens setting this example of humility. The holy King Robert of France, and later, St. Louis, used frequently to wash the feet of the poor. The holy Queens, St. Margarite of Scotland, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, did the same. The Church, with that spirit which makes her treasure up every recommendation of her Divine Lord, has introduced this act of humility into her Liturgy, and it is today that she puts the great lesson before her children. In every Church of any importance, the Prelate, or Superior, honors our Savior’s condescension by the ceremony called the Washing of the Feet. The Bishops throughout the world follow the example set them by the Sovereign Pontiff, who performs this ceremony in the Vatican. Yea, there are still to be found Kings and Queens who, on this day, wash the feet of the poor, and give them abundant alms.

The Twelve Apostles are represented by the twelve poor, who, according to the most general practice, are chosen for this ceremony. The Pope, however, washes the feet of thirteen Priests of as many different countries; and this is the reason of the Ceremonial requiring this number for Cathedral Churches. But why thirteen? Some have interpreted it thus: that it represented the full number of the Apostolic College, with is thirteen, for St. Matthias was elected in Judas’ place, and our Lord himself, after his Ascension, called St. Paul to be an Apostle. Other authors, however, among them the learned Pope Benedict the Fourteenth, assert that the reason for this number being chosen was the miracle related in the life of St. Gregory the Great. This holy Pope used, every day, to wash the feet of twelve poor men, whom he afterwards invited to his own table. One day, a thirteenth was present:—it was an Angel, whom God had sent, that he might thereby testify how dear to him was the charity of his Servant.

The Ceremony of the Washing of the Feet is, also, called the Mandatum, from the first word of the first Antiphon. After the Deacon has chanted the Gospel of the Mass of Maundy Thursday, the Celebrant takes off the Cope, girds himself with a towel, and, kneeling down, begins to wash the feet of those who have been chosen. He kisses the right foot of each one, after having washed it. Meanwhile, the Choir sings the following Antiphons:

Ant. Mandatum novum do vobis: ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos, dicit Dominus. ℣. Beati immaculati in via: * qui ambulant in lege domini. Mandatum.

Ant. I give you a new commandment: that ye love one another, as I have loved you, says our Lord. ℣. Blessed are the immaculate in the way; who walk in the law of the Lord. I give, &c.

Ant.Postquam surrexit Dominus a cœna misit aquam in pelvim, et cœpit lavare pedes discipulorum suorum: hoc exemplum reliquit eis. ℣. Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis: * in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus. Postquam.

Ant.After our Lord was risen from supper, he put water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples; to whom he gave this example. ℣. Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised: in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. After, &c.

Ant. Dominus Jesus, postquam cœnavit cum discipulis suis, lavit pedes eorum, et ait illis: Scitis quid fecerim vobis ego Dominus et Magister? Exemplum dedi vobis, ut et vos ita faciatis. ℣. Benedixisti, Domine, terram tuam; * advertisti captivitatem Jacob. Dominus.

Ant. Our Lord Jesus, after he had supped with his disciples, washed their feet, and said to them: Know you what I your Lord and Master have done to you? I have given you an example, that ye also may do the same. ℣. Thou hast blessed, O Lord, thy land: thou hast delivered Jacob from captivity. Our Lord, &c.

Ant. Domine, tu mihi lavas pedes! Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Si non lavero tibi pedes, non habebis partem mecum. ℣. Venit ergo ad Simonem Petrum, * et dixit ei Petrus: Domine. ℣. Quod ego facio tu nescis modo: scies autem postea. Domine.

Ant. Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered, and said to him: If I shall not wash thy feet, thou shalt have no part with me. ℣. He came to Simon Peter, and Peter said to him: Lord, &c. ℣. What I do thou knowest not now: but thou shalt know it afterwards. Lord, &c.

Ant. Si ego Dominus et Magister vester lavi vobis pedes: quanto magis debetis alter alterius lavare pedes! ℣. Audite hæc, omnes gentes: * auribus percipite qui habitatis orbem. Si ego.

Ant. If I your Lord and Master have washed your feet: how much more ought you to wash the feet of one another? ℣. Hear these things, all ye nations: harken to them, all ye that inhabit the world. If I, &c.

Ant. In hoc cognoscent omnes quia discipuli mei estis, si dilectionem habueritis ad invicem. ℣. Dixit Jesus discipulis suis. In hoc.

Ant. In this all shall know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love for one another. ℣. Said Jesus to his disciples. In this, &c.

Ant. Maneant in vobis fides, spes, charitas, tria hæc: major autem horum est charitas. ℣. Nunc autem manent fides, spes, charitas, tria hæc: * major horum est charitas. Maneant.

Ant. Let these three, Faith, Hope, and Charity, remain in you: but the greatest of them is charity. ℣. But now remain Faith, Hope, and Charity, these three: but the greatest of them is charity. Let, &c.

Ant. Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas atque indivisa unitas: confitebimur ei, quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam. ℣. Benedicamus Patrem et Filium, * cum Sancto Spiritu. ℣. Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, Domine virtutum! * concupiscit et deficit anima mea in atria Domini. Benedicta.

Ant. Blessed be the holy Trinity and undivided Unity: we will praise him because he has shown us his mercy. ℣. Let us bless the Father and the Son, with the Holy Ghost. ͳ. How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts: my soul desires and longs after the house of the Lord. Blessed, &c.

After these Antiphons, the Choir sings the following Canticle. It is a fervent exhortation to Fraternal Charity, of which the Washing of the Feet is a symbol.

Canticle

Ubi charitas, et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are, there is God.

℣. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.

℣. The love of Christ hath gathered us together.

℣. Exsultemus, et in ipso jocundemur.

℣. Let us rejoice in him, and be glad.

℣. Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.

℣. Let us fear and love the living God.

℣. Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

℣. And let us love one the other with a sincere heart.

Ubi charitas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are, there is God.

℣. Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur,

℣. When, therefore, we are gathered together,

℣. Ne nos mente dividamur caveamus.

℣. Let us take heed we be not divided in mind.

℣. Cessent jurgia maligna, cessent lites,

℣. Let wicked quarrels and contentions be at an end,

℣. Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

℣. And let Christ our God dwell among us.

Ubi charitas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are, there is God.

℣. Simul quoque cum bheatis vedeamus,

℣. Let us, also, with the Blessed, see

℣. Glorianter, vultum tuum, Christe Deus.

℣. Thy face in glory, O Christ our God!

℣. Gaudium, quod est immensum, atque probum,

℣. There to possess an immense and happy joy,

℣. Sæcula per infinita sæculorum. Amen.

℣. For endless ages. Amen.

The Celebrant having resumed his Cope, the ceremony concludes with the following prayers:

Pater Noster.

Our Father.

The rest of the Lord’s Prayer is said in silence, as far as the last two petitions.

℣. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.

℣. And lead us not into temptation.

℟. Sed libera nos a malo.

℟. But deliver us from evil.

℣. Tu mandasti mandata tua, Domine,

℣. Thou hast commanded, O Lord,

℟. Custodiri nimis.

℟. That thy precept be exactly observed.

℣. Tu lavasti pedes discipulorum tuorum.

℣. Thou hast washed the feet of thy disciples.

℟. Opera manuum tuarum ne descipicias.

℟. Despise not the work of thy hands.

℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.

℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.

℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.

℟. And let my cry come unto thee.

℣. Dominus vobiscum.

℣. The Lord be with you.

℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.

℟. And with thy spirit.

Oremus. Let us pray.

Adesto, Domine, quæsumus, officio servitutis nostræ et quia tu discipulis tuis pedes lavare dignatus es, ne despicias opera manuum tuarum, quæ nobis retinenda mandasti: ut sicut hic nobis, et a nobis exteriora abluuntur inquinamenta, sic a te omnium nostrum interiora laventur peccata. Quod ipse præstare digneris, qui vivis et regnas Deus per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

Accept, O Lord, we beseech thee, this duty of our service, and since thou didst vouchsafe to wash the feet of thy disciples, despise not the work of thy hands, which thou hast commanded us to imitate: that as here the outward stains are washed away by us and from us, so the inward sins of us all may be blotted out by thee. Which be thou pleased to grant, who livest and reignest one God for ever and ever.

℟. Amen.

℟. Amen.

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