Holy Thursday: Come, stay awake for Jesus

Published: April 16, 2019

"(Jesus) prayed, saying, 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.' And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground." (Luke 22:41-44)

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During the Mass of the Lord's Supper, we mark the institution of the Eucharist and priesthood and re-enact the washing of feet. This Holy Thursday evening liturgy brings Lent to a close and begins the celebration of the Easter TriduumHoly Thursday is traditionally known as Maundy Thursday. The word, “maundy,” comes from the Latin, “mandatum” and means “commandment” or “mandate." During the Last Supper, Jesus commanded the disciples to: "Do this in remembrance of me," (1 Corinthians 11:24) referring to the celebration of the Eucharist and "love one another," (John 13:34), which he demonstrated through the washing of the feet.

Why did Jesus do this? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; ‘thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament.'" (no. 1337)

Because Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday, extra consecrated hosts are reserved after Communion for the Good Friday service. These hosts are carried in a solemn procession for reservation in the tabernacle. During the procession, Tantum Ergo Sacramentum or another eucharistic song is sung.

Recalling Jesus' request of his disciples to stay awake and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest (Luke 22:39-46), parishioners are invited to stay and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Like the angel who appeared to Jesus, we have the opportunity to comfort Jesus in his agony as he prepares himself for what is to come, the suffering he will endure for our sake. The Mass concludes quietly as the altar is stripped in preparation for Good Friday.

A special collection to support seminarian education is taken up in all parishes in Arkansas on Holy Thursday. Look for the envelope in your parish or donate online. Before Mass, consider visiting area churches to say a prayer. Traditionally, Catholics visited churches to pray on Holy Thursday. This evolved from the practice of Christian pilgrimages to the holy sites where Jesus lived, preached and experienced his passion, death and resurrection.