Mass of the Lord’s Supper Opens Easter Triduum
Solemnity Will Give Way to Joy Over the Three Days That Close Holy Week
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Marking the end of the Lenten season, and opening the three day celebration of the Triduum, which ultimately leads to the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Holy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ final meal with his apostles before his death, when he instituted priesthood and the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Cardinal Wuerl began his homily reflecting on the two readings and the significance of remembering past generations’ struggles, joys, accomplishments and history—their identity. The readings of the day visualize two great memorials established “lest God’s people forget,” he said, and spoke of how God established through Moses a memorial of the Passover. The other remembrance established was the commemoration of our deliverance from sin and death to new life and grace. The Lord’s Last Supper is a retelling of the story of God’s limitless love for each one of us, said the cardinal. Unlike the Passover, the Eucharist is not just a remembrance, it is an actual participation in the mystery of our salvation.
The cardinal cited the last encyclical written by Saint John Paul II in 2003 on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, and said that it clearly teaches the ancient faith of the Church has proclaimed for twenty centuries: “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and Resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and the work of our redemption is carried out.”
“Lest we forget that it is in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ that we find our identity. Jesus established the Eucharist with the command, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Jesus knew how easy it would be to forget God’s love for us, Jesus’ death on the cross for us, and his command that we “love one another.”
“How would we know who Jesus is, why he came, what he did for us and how he has changed us unless someone tells us? How would we ever know how much God loves us unless we are told — over and over again.”
The action of the washing of the feet is a visible reminder that God loves each one of us and calls us to love one another. While we may not show love by washing others’ feet, other gestures can be just as beautiful, said the cardinal. I ask you to show others you care with a word of forgiveness, a kind word of counsel, or a gesture of welcome, Cardinal Wuerl said. He concluded his homily saying, “Then as we come to the altar and step forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with a profound act of faith, let us renew in our hearts the realization that Christ who washed the feet of his disciples is present to wash away anything that would keep us from being one with him or hinder us from sharing in the joy of his new and eternal life.”
After the homily, Cardinal Wuerl washed the feet of twelve parishioners in memory of Jesus’ act of humility and service to his apostles when he washed the feet of his apostles. The individuals were chosen by the cathedral and reflected the diversity of the St. Matthew’s Cathedral parish and its ministries.
After the Mass, the Eucharist was moved in a solemn procession to a side chapel to the altar of repose for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament where the faithful were able to spend time in quiet prayer and reflection. The altar and sanctuary were stripped of all ornamentation – crucifixes and flowers are removed, no candles and lamps are burned, statutes are removed or covered, and holy water fonts are emptied as the church prepares for Good Friday when Christ died on the cross.
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.