By Donal Anthony Foley –
Holy Thursday initiates us each year into the Sacred Triduum, which begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper tonight, Maundy Thursday, and ends on Easter Sunday. It is the calm before the storm, commemorating the last few hours Jesus spent with His disciples in relative peace before the terrible events of his Passion and Death with all their savage barbarity.
The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word, mandatum, which means “command,” and is thus related to the fact that during the Last Supper Jesus spoke of the “new commandment” He was giving His disciples, that they should love one another as He had loved them (John 13: 34).
We learn from the Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke that Jesus planned in advance the last Passover meal before His death, and that it took place in a large upper room at the house of a friend and probable disciple of His in Jerusalem. They go on to relate how Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at this meal, telling His followers to eat and drink His Body and Blood in remembrance of Him, as He instituted the new covenant in His Blood, which would be poured out for all on the cross the next day.
St. John’s Gospel is different; he says nothing at all about the institution of the Eucharist. Rather, he focuses on the act of Christ washing the feet of His disciples that took place in the upper room.
St. John relates that during the supper Jesus laid aside his outer garments, girded himself with a towel and then proceeded to wash the feet of his closest followers, a menial task usually left to a servant or slave. Thus, in this act He was humbling himself before His great sacrifice the next day.
Peter was scandalized at this action of Jesus and initially refused a footwashing by Him, only relenting when Jesus told him that without this action, Peter would “have no inheritance” with Him. Jesus explained why He had washed their feet; that it was an act of service and humility and a model for them to follow. He then gave His disciples the new commandment – to love one another as He had loved them; this was how people would know that they were His disciples.
Clearly we are called to follow the example of Christ in both acts of service to others and in the self-offering we make of our lives in the Morning Offering. And in some cases, such as martyrdom, it is question of making a complete offering of our lives to God even unto death, as Christ died for us.
In the first apparition at Fatima, Our Lady touched on a similar theme when she asked the little shepherds, “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?”
When Lucia replied positively on behalf of her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco, the Blessed Virgin responded, “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”
As the children had learned from the Angel of Peace the summer before: “Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Angel Guardian, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission, the suffering which the Lord will send you.”
This attitude of self-sacrifice was something that the children of Fatima embraced wholeheartedly as they grew to understand what it was that Our Lord and Our Lady required of them, and what it meant to truly love one another as God had loved them.
Holy Thursday, and it’s mandatum, the new commandment given by Christ to His disciples, is a reminder that we are all called to express both love for God and for one another in a self-sacrificing way, as Christ did on the cross, and as Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia did so marvelously in their own lives.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, including Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people – details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/Share this article: