Tonight I reflected after Mass that I've been doing this Holy Thursday worship for the 11th time as a deacon. All of my experiences have been reserved to 2 parishes: St. Jane de Chantal(Abita Springs) and Most Holy Trinity (near the Covington/Mandeville border in the old church). I have been one of many deacons in the sanctuary, one of two, I have proclaimed the Gospel, like tonight, have assisted at altar, have assisted with washing of feet and always participated in the procession to the altar of repose.
This mass is so beautiful as we can reflect on the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist at that first Holy Thursday night in the upper room some 2,000 years ago. And then there is what is sometimes called the mandatum; the washing of feet, given to us right from the pages of Scripture(as is most of the Mass). Our pastor washed feet tonight, not 12 people as I've witnessed most of the time, but less than 12 is a valid option. Incredibly, one of the options is to skip the washing of feet altogether; I've only witnessed that once.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of the evening is that the mass on Holy Thursday never ends; instead the Blessed Sacrament is gathered together in vessels called ciboria and processed to another location, commonly called the altar of repose. There Jesus, in the Blessed Sacrament, will remain tonight for adoring, in our case, until midnight. It is a somber, beautiful sacred tradition and serves as a reminder that Jesus will not be in all the tabernacles of the world again until the joyful and glorious celebration of the Easter vigil on Saturday at dark.
Once Jesus is relocated the deacons with other helpers return to the church and strip the sanctuary bare. When we enter the church on Good Friday, the altar is adorned with nothing. It adds to the reality that He is not there.
So right now I am home, reflecting on yet another Holy Thursday as a Deacon, happy and thankful that God choose to use me in the manner that He does as one of His deacons. Holy Thursday is one of my favorite evenings of the year in all things faith life and liturgical cycle. Everything about this night is deep - Eucharist, Priesthood, Washing Feet. And we remember the log night Jesus then spent in the Garden, asking his Apostles, and asking us, can we watch with Him just one hour.
The Triduum has begun, on to Good Friday.