Holy Thursday


Today’s Paschal Triduum reflection is from Fr. Dennis Gallagher A.A.,
Provincial Superior of the Assumptionists in North America

For so many of the Catholic faithful, the celebration of Holy Thursday arrives in the midst of a whole year of “fasting” from the Eucharist. This has been a fast imposed in the interest of public health, but it constitutes, in the order of truth, the greatest of all the pandemic deprivations.

Normally, fasting means the voluntary sacrifice of lesser goods for the purpose of attaching ourselves more firmly to a greater good. What can it possibly mean, then, to “fast” from the greatest of all goods? It means to do without something so much at the heart of our Catholic life that we are left, in its absence, as mere shadows of our true selves. In this respect, there are no substitutes. If we have reason to be grateful for our technology, the “watching” of Mass is so far from the real thing as to belong to a different order of reality.

We are a sacramental people, embodied creatures for whom presence, place and participation are essential conditions for the sharing of life. Consider all the “embodiments” of the Last Supper. Jesus, in the upper room, surrounded by those who had been chosen to accompany him most closely during his public ministry, expresses the longing of his heart to eat the Passover meal with them. At the end of the meal, he takes the simple elements of bread and wine, and handing the bread and the cup to his friends, he elucidates the deepest meaning of the events about to unfold. This is my body, given up for you. This is my blood poured out for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

The “embodiments” are not quite done. Getting up from the meal, the Master lays aside his garments, puts a towel around his waist, pours water into a basin, and stoops down to wash the feet of his disciples, drying them with the towel. In this most evocative of actions, Jesus again invites imitation. “For as I have given you an example, you also should do as I have done to you.”

As members of Christ’s body, we need to be joined together in sacramental communion and service. Christ longed to eat the Passover meal with his disciples. Our longing must be the same.