The significance of Holy Thursday

The significance of Holy Thursday

Because of the pandemic, we may not be able to attend the liturgical celebration of Holy Thursday which normally involves the celebration of the Chrism Mass in the morning (though this can be transferred to another day) and that of the Mass of the Last Supper in the evening. But this does not mean that the tremendous significance of this day should be lessened, much less, lost in us.

In a sense, precisely because of this temporary privation, our sense of the importance of this day should be heightened, for, indeed, Holy Thursday marks the sacramentalization of the climactic redemptive act of our Lord—his passion, death and resurrection.

This takes place because Christ during the Last Supper instituted the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Orders. What this means is that the historical event of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection that culminate and summarize everything that our Lord did and said to save us, is not buried in the past. It is made actual, present and its real redemptive value effective everytime the Holy Eucharist is celebrated.

Everytime the Holy Mass is celebrated, our time and the eternity of God are made one, with the fullness of Christ’s redemptive work and value made available and offered to us. In the Mass, we somehow become contemporaries with Christ in his passion, death and resurrection, and made to share in it as a way to expiate for our sins.

And in the Blessed Sacrament which is another aspect of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we actually have the real, and not just a symbolic, presence of Christ before us. Yes, the whole Christ is there—his divinity and his humanity, his soul and body, his words and deeds, are all there contained in the sacramental host inside the ciborium, and usually placed inside the tabernacle.

Of course, with the reception of Holy Communion, we have to realize that we are following what Christ himself clearly said: that he is the Bread of Life and that we have to eat him, otherwise we would not have eternal life. (cfr. Jn 6,53-54)

Holy Thursday is a very good day to meditate on this very overwhelming truth of our faith about the Holy Eucharist. We need to process this truth slowly if only to let it sink deep in our mind and heart and made an operative principle of our life.

With the Holy Eucharist, what we are told in effect is that Christ has given himself completely to us. We have no reason to think that it is difficult if not impossible for us to be with Christ and to have a supernatural life that is lived in union with Christ, or to be holy.

We may still have our own human limitations, weaknesses, mistakes, sins, etc., but if we go to Christ who gives himself completely to us in the Holy Eucharist, everything will be taken care of. Christ’s mercy is always assured even if he may be mad at us for a while.

As one of the psalms would put it, “His anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts as lifetime. Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (30,5) And St. Paul reiterates the same point: “Where sin has abounded, grace abounded even more.” (Rom 5,20)

We should just look at the episodes of the woman caught in adultery (cfr. Jn 8,1-11) and the repentant thief (cfr. Lk 23,40-43) to validate all this. There we can see clearly how Christ readily forgives even if he never condones what is sinful.

In the end, we know that on the cross, Christ with all that excruciating pain he had to undergo for our salvation, asked for forgiveness on our behalf, even finding excuses for our sins. “Forgive them, Father,” he said, “for they know not what they are doing.” (Lk 23,34)

The fullness of God’s mercy is given to us in the Holy Eucharist!