Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday is a day filled with tradition. Firstly, if you pop along to your Cathedral, there will be in the morning a Chrism Mass where holy oils (which are used for the anointing of the sick, confirmations and in baptisms) are consecrated by the Bishop in the presence of the diocesan clergy. This signifies the unity of the presbyters with their Bishop, who himself sits in union with all the bishops of the world and the Pope, who is the Vicar of Christ.

Another tradition passed on to Christians by Jesus Christ is that of the washing of feet, which is mentioned today in John 13:1-15. The washing of feet is a humbling of the teacher or master, and usually the priest or bishop washes the feet of the people in the midst of the liturgy which celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the passing on of Christ’s priesthood to his apostles. Holy Thursday then emphasises the unity of the Church in its humble service of Christ’s flock.

Another tradition in the evening of Holy Thursday is to eat lamb as part of a shared meal with family or fellow Christians. The sacrificial lamb is spoken of often in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament we hear of the paschal lamb, sacrificed at the passover in commemoration of the Lord’s bringing Israel out of captivity in Egypt. In the Gospels, however, we learn that Jesus himself is the sacrificial lamb by whose blood we are saved from captivity to sin. Jesus himself knew that this was the destiny for which he came into the world. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, knowing his trials were to come and that Judas had already betrayed him, began to sweat even his blood, in fear of his dreadful fate. However, Jesus prayed ‘not my will be done, but yours’ to the Father and never thought of abandoning his mission, no matter how dangerous or painful.

On Holy Thursday then, as we remember Christ’s mercy in washing us clean and as we mark the union of all Christians in the same service of humility and sacrifice, we draw strength from what Christ has already done, and work knowing that our mission has already been accomplished.

Fr Luke Doherty is assistant priest at Holy Cross, Leicester, and Catholic Chaplain to HMP Leicester