Holy Thursday: A Time to Reflect on the Spiritual Meaning of The Mass

The Church draws her life from the Holy Eucharist –Saint John Paul II

The Church begins on Holy Thursday evening the most sacred days of the liturgical calendar, the Paschal Triduum: The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord.

Though spread over three calendar days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection.

Holy Thursday marks the end of the Lenten Season, and the Church celebrates a triple anniversary: the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, the Institution of the Ministerial Priesthood, and the Commandment to love one another as Christ has first loved us.

Holy Thursday provides us a perfect opportunity to reflect upon the spiritual meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If someone were to ask us to list the participants of the Mass, we usually think of the priest, the deacon, the lectors, the choir, servers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, ushers, and the faithful in the pews. We naturally think of those in the physical building at a particular time.

In this time of pandemic, clergy and faithful hunger for a time to be reunited in this manner. Yet, our faith teaches us that every Mass unites us to the Cross. At the altar, when the priest lifts up the Host or the Chalice, we are united with Jesus, the angels, saints, and the entire faithful. As the Body of Christ, we are all unified in this beautiful mystery of our faith. Therefore, regardless of the number of people present, no Mass is really private.

There is a powerful consolation to know that each day our Bishop and priests continue to offer the Mass in union with all the angels, saints, and all of us spiritually present.

Saint John Paul II keenly noted in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia that the Church draws her life from the Eucharist.

Parish offices are closed, meetings have been postponed, devotions are being livestreamed, academic instruction are now online, and all rightfully so. But the Holy Eucharist continues each and every day.

The mystery of the Holy Eucharist unites us, the nourishment of the Holy Eucharist sustains us, and the power of the Holy Eucharist proclaims that the Church is alive!

This series of articles about the special liturgies of Holy Week is written by Father Keith A. Mathur, director of the Office for Divine Worship.


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