Holy Thursday

This vesperal Eucharist, this celebration of the Lord's Supper belongs not to the fading light of Thursday, but inaugurates the bright darkness of tomorrow, the great and holy Friday of the Lord's Passion, the day of the Lamb, the day of the Blood and of the Water, the day of the life-giving Tree, and of the Spirit outpoured. Consciously, we have crossed the awesome threshold, singing the mystery of the Cross, our health, our life, our resurrection. Seized with a holy fear and compelled to go forward by a holy desire, we have entered into the safe harbour of the blessed Passion, into the Passover of the Lord. "It is the Passover of the Lord"(Ex 12:11). This evening, the blood of the Lamb will mark, not the door posts and lintels of the house, but the lips of all of us who by the Cross are healed and set free.

The Passover we celebrate is the work of the Father drawing us to himself, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. To be caught up in the Pasch of the Lord is to be caught up in his ascent to the Father. Pope John Paul II, in his Holy Thursday Letter to Priests for this year, writes, "In the Paschal Mystery, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, God the Father stoops down to every man and every woman, offering the possibility of redemption from sin and liberation from death." Is this not the fulfillment of God's astonishing words to Moses on Horeb, the mountain of God? "I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex 3:7 8).

This evening's holy gospel draws us deeply into the Pasch of the Lord. "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God . . . ." (Jn 13:3). This Evening he gives us the mysteries of his Body and Blood, descending so low as to make himself not only our footwashing Servant, but our very food and drink, that we, many though we are, by partaking of his sacred Body and precious Blood, might ascend with him, in the Holy Spirit, to the Father. This, the Holy Father stresses in his Holy Thursday message. "It is with Christ, he writes, that we pass through time, going in the same direction that he has taken: towards the Father. This becomes even more evident during the Sacred Triduum, the holy days par excellence during which we share, through the mystery, in Christ's return to the Father through his passion, death and resurrection. Faith assures us that this journey of Christ to the Father, his Passover, is not an event which involves him alone.

We too are called to be part of it. His Passover is our Passover." And so we continue this solemn celebration of the holy, awesome, and life giving mysteries, believing-and knowing-that through the liturgy of the next three days and nights the God who knows our sufferings, the God who has come down, down to us, even into the narrow places of our bondage, darkness, and fears- this same God will lead us up and out into the spacious and wondrous place opened for by the cross and resurrection of his Son.

© Dom Marc-Daniel Kirby, O.Cist.

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