Holy Thursday marks the start of the Triduum – the most solemn time of the liturgical year which culminates in the Easter Vigil. Here’s a little trivia to share around the parish.
- The Matins and Lauds of the last three days of Holy Week used to be known as Tenebrae. A 15-candle candelabra was set near the altar holding yellow candles like those traditionally used during a requiem. After each psalm a candle was extinguished until the church was in total darkness. At this point a loud continuous noise was made until a single lit candle was brought forward ending the Office. Some parishes still hold Tenebrae services and it is well worth your time to attend.
- The original Holy Thursday was celebrated on the day called Azymes, or feast of the unleavened bread by the Jews. At sunset on this day the Jews eat the Passover meal. Jesus spent the day in Bethania but returned to Jerusalem to celebrate the Last Supper.
- In ancient times, three solemn Masses were celebrated on Holy Thursday. Before the first Mass, the penitents who had spent Lent doing penance received their absolution. During Lent the penitents hadn’t cut their hair or shaved.
- The second ancient Mass was for the blessing of the holy oils. The bishop carries out this function at his cathedral. The three oils are:
- While it was considered proper custom to wash your own feet before a feast, Jesus’s action of washing his disciples feast would have been considered an extreme expression of hospitality.
- Jesus warns Judas four times during the meal about his treacherous intentions.
- Even though the vestments for Holy Thursday are white, several changes to the liturgy mark the solemn nature. Traditionally, the Gloria is accompanied by ringing bells that cease at the end of the hymn and aren’t rung again until the Easter Vigil. Sometimes a wooden clapper is sounded during the times that the bells would traditionally have been rung.
- On Holy Thursday, all the hosts that are expected to be consumed on Good Friday are consecrated. This is known as the Mass of the Presanctified because Good Friday is the one day of the year when Mass is not celebrated.
- The stational Mass for Holy Thursday is at the Lateran basilica which is the Pope’s home parish even though the Pope typically celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s.
- A tradition in ancient times was to wash the altars with water and wine and then sprinkle them with hyssop before the Holy Thursday Mass.
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