Today is Maundy Thursday, with its evening Mass. This Mass has two themes: the first is Our Blessed Lord’s institution of the Holy Eucharist, on the evening before he was handed over to be crucified to redeem us; the other theme is “how perfect Our Lord’s love was”.
The first theme is reflected in the first and second readings of this evening’s Mass. The first reading is about the origin of the Jewish Passover. Their forebears, the ancient Israelites, were slaves in Egypt. The Pharaoh of Egypt refused to release them – until a series of plagues culminated in the death, at the hands of God’s Angel, of all the firstborn in the land of Egypt. To prevent the Angel of Death killing the firstborn of the Israelite households, they were warned by God beforehand to slaughter a lamb for a hasty meal, and smear its blood on their doorposts. When he saw the blood of the lamb, the Angel of Death would ‘pass over’ those homes and leave them untouched. There was such an outcry among the Egyptians in the wake of this terrible plague, that Pharaoh finally permitted the Israelites to go free.
The blood of the Passover lamb of old prefigured the Blood of Christ, the Lamb of God. For all who put their faith in Christ crucified for us, and are baptized in his name – and who receive his Blood in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist – his Blood is smeared on their souls. The Angel of Death passes over those souls (as he passed over the homes of the ancient Israelites in Egypt), and those souls are saved.
The second reading describes how Our Lord instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at his Last Supper.
Under normal circumstances, the Maundy Thursday Mass would end with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to a special Altar of Repose. It would remain here for some hours so that people might meditate on the wonderful gift Our Lord has given us in the Eucharist: Our Lord, in his saving death and glorious resurrection, is present to us under the appearance of bread and wine. Sadly, with the Coronavirus lockdown, we cannot have the procession this year.
We hear about the second theme, “how perfect Our Lord’s love was”, in the Gospel reading. It describes how, at the Last Supper, Our Lord washed the feet of his disciples. To wash someone’s feet was the job of a servant. In his saving death Our Lord proved himself mankind’s greatest possible servant.
Here’s a photograph of Saint Mary’s, set up for this evening’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper – the tabernacle empty of the Blessed Sacrament. Although Maundy Thursday is a penitential day, the evening Mass is a festive celebration. For this reason, the Mass vestments are white – and, although the statues and crosses are veiled in purple, you may be able to see that the cross on the altar is veiled in festive white.