"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Thursday, April 13, 2017


by Leonard Goffine, 1871

What festival does the Church celebrate today?

Today the holy Catholic Church commemorates, from their commencement, the solemn circumstances under which the divine Saviour instituted the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, and the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

What did Christ do that was remarkable on this day?

He kept with His apostles the last Easter, that is, He ate with them, according to the law of Moses, a roasted lamb, which was a prototype of Himself, and was eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, standing with clothes girded up, and staff in hand, in remembrance of the hurried escape from Egypt when the Jews had thus to eat it (Exod. xii.); and in admonition that we Christians should receive and eat the true Easter Lamb, Christ Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament with fervent devotion, with pure, simple heart, accompanied by bitter tears of sorrow for our sins. After the paschal supper, our Lord in deepest humility, washed His disciples' feet, exhorting them to gentleness and humility; afterwards, He gave His flesh and blood under the appearance of bread and wine, for spiritual food and drink, thus instituting the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, and the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, and ordained His apostles priests, by commanding them to do as He had done in commemoration of Him. After this He gave them His last instructions (John xv. 18.), speaking especially of brotherly love, said His last beautiful, high-priestly prayer, in which He particularly implored His Heavenly Father for the unity of His Church, went then, as usual, to Mount Olivet, where with prayer and resignation to the will of His Heavenly Father, in intense, deathlike agony, and with bloody sweat, He commenced His passion, and where He was by Judas betrayed by a treacherous kiss into the hands of the Jews, who then bound Him and led Him to the high priests, Annas and Caiphas, where He was sentenced by the council to death, and was denied by Peter.

The Introit of the Mass runs thus: We ought to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection: by whom we have been saved and delivered. (Gal. vi. 14.) May God have mercy on us and bless us: may His countenance shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us. (Ps. lxvi. 2.)

What special ceremonies are observed in this day's Mass?

The priest comes on the altar in white vestments, and the crucifix is covered with white in memory of the joy-giving institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar; the Gloria in excelsis, or Glory be to God on high, is solemnly sung while all the bells are rung, by which all Christians are called to render praise and gratitude for the institution of the Blessed Feast of Love; after the Gloria, the bells are silent again, and instead of them until Holy Saturday wooden instruments are used in the Church, to indicate her deep mourning for the passion and death of Jesus, to urge us also to spend these days in silent mourning, and in meditating upon the sufferings of Christ, and in memory of the shameful flight of the apostles at the capture of their master, and their silence during these days. At the consecration, the priest consecrates two hosts of which he takes one in Communion, and the other he preserves in the chalice for the following day, because no consecration takes place then. The officiating priest does not give the assisting priest the usual kiss before Communion, because on this day Judas betrayed his master with a kiss. After Mass, the consecrated host in the chalice and the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, are taken in procession to the sacristy or a side-altar, which is done in memory of the earliest times of Christianity, when the consecrated hosts for the communicants and the sick, were kept in a specially prepared place, because there was no tabernacle on the altar. After the procession, the priests with the singers say vespers in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

EPISTLE, (i. Cor. xi. 20-32.) Brethren: When you come therefore together into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord's supper. For every one taketh before his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry, and another is drunk. What, have you not houses to eat and drink in? Or despise ye the church of God; and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye and eat: this is my body which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the Chalice, after he had supped, saying: This Chalice is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye as often as ye shall drink it, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until He come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep. But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord: that we be not condemned with this world.

EXPLANATION. After Communion and the celebration of the Last Supper, the early Christians were accustomed to unite in a common repast, the richer furnishing the food, and the poor and rich, partaking of it in common, in token of brotherly love. This repast they called "Agape", "meal of love". At Corinth this was abused, for some before Communion eat that which they had brought, became intoxicated, and deprived the poor of their share. The Apostle reproves this abuse as an unworthy preparation for Communion, and recalls to the Corinthians the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, concerning which he had received a special revelation, instructing them what a terrible sin it was to partake of the body and blood of the Lord unworthily, for whoever does this, makes himself guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, that is, he makes himself guilty of the murder of the Lord, as if he had murdered Christ, had shed His blood, as St. Chrysostom says, and eats and drinks his own judgment, that is, eternal damnation. Therefore try yourself, O Christian, as often as you communicate, to see whether you have any grievous sin in your heart, whether you have confessed your sins, and have heartfelt sorrow for them.

GOSPEL. (John xiii. 1 - 15.) Before the festival day of the pasch, Jesus knowing that His hour was come that He should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end. And when supper was done, (the devil having now put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him) knowing that the Father had given Him all things into His hands, and that He came from God, and goeth to God: He riseth from supper, and layeth aside His garments, and having taken a towel, girded Himself. After that, He putteth water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. He cometh therefore to Simon Peter. And Peter saith to him: Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered, and said to him: What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith to Him: Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me. Simon Peter saith to Him: Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him: He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all. For he knew who he was that would betray Him; therefore He said: You are not all clean. Then after he had washed their feet, and taken His garments, being set down again, He said to them: Know you what I have done to you? Tou call me, Master, and Lord: and you say well, for so I am. If then I, being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you so do you also.

Why did Jesus wash the feet of His disciples?

To give them a proof of His sincere love, and an example of His deep humility which they should imitate; to teach them, that even though they themselves were free from sin, and not unworthy to receive His most holy body and blood, their feet needed cleansing, that is, that they should be also purified from all evil inclinations which defile the heart as daily dust the feet, and prevent holy Communion from producing its perfect fruitful efects in the soul.

Why is it, that on this day only one priest says Mass at which the others receice Communion?

Because as on this day Christ, and He only, offered the unbloody Sacrifice, and having instituted the Blessed Sacrament, fed with His own hands His disciples with His flesh and blood, it is but proper, that in commemoration of this, the priests in one Church should receive the Blessed Sacrament from the hands of one, according to the example of the apostles, but in sign of the priestly dignity which on this day Christ gave to the apostles and their successors, each priest wears a stole.

Why after the service are the altars denuded?

To show that Jesus, who is represented by the altar, took off, as it were, at the time of His passion, His divine glory, and yielded Himself up in utter humiliation into the hands of His enemies to be crucified (Phil. ii. 6. 7.), and that at the crucifixion He was forcibly stripped of His garments, which the soldiers divided among them, as foretold in the twenty first psalm, which is therefore said during this ceremony.--The faithful are urged to put off the old sinful man with his actions, and by humbling themselves become conformable to Christ.

Why is it, that spiritual superiors wash the feet of those under them, as do also the Catholic princes the feet of twelve poor male persons?

This is in commemoration of the washing of feet by Christ, and in memory of that, all people, even the highest, should exercise the necessary virtues of humility and charity towards even the lowest, according to the example given by Jesus. Therefore these mentioned kiss the feet of the poor, and the pope presses them to his breast, giving to each person a silver and gold medal, on which is pictured the washing of the feet by Christ.

What are the Tenebrae and their signification?

They are the office prayers which the clergy say on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, accompanied by lamentations, and different other ceremonies. The word Tenebrae means darkness, and represents the prayers formerly said in the dark hours of the morning. In these Tenebrae the Church mourns the passion and death of Jesus, and urges her children to return to God; she therefore makes use of the words of Jeremias, and especially those mournful words: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! be converted to God, thy Lord!"

Why are these Tenebrae said in the evening?

In memory of that time when the early Christians spent the whole night preceding great festivals in prayer, which, later, when zeal diminished, was only done on their eves, and then only by the clergy, and is still done; also in order that we may consider the darkness lasting for three hours at the crucifixion of Christ, whence the name Tenebrae; and lastly, to represent by it that mourning of which darkness is the type.

Why, during the prayers of the clergy, are the lights in the triangular candlestick one after another extinguished?

Because the Tenebrae, as has been already remarked, in the earliest times of the Church, were held in the night, the candles were extinguished, one after another, as the breaking in of day rendered them no longer necessary, and are now extinguished in memory of this. There is also a moral signification, that joy should more and more decrease, and our sadness more and more increase, the nearer we come to the contemplation of the death of Christ; again, at the time of the passion and death of Jesus, His apostles whom He calls the light of the world, one after another gradually left Him; at the death of Christ the earth was covered with darkness; that the Jews, who, blinded by pride, would not recognize Him as the Saviour of the world, fell by His death into the deepest darkness of hardened infidelity.

What is meant by the last candle which is carried lighted behind the altar, and after prayers are finished, is brought back again?

This candle signifies Christ, who, though, according to His human nature, died and laid for three days in the sepulchre, on the third day came forth from the grave, by His own power, as the true light of the world.

Why at the end of Tenebrae is a noise made with clappers?

This was formerly a sign, that service was over; it also signifies the earthquake which took place at Christ's death.

REMARK. In the Cathedrals the holy oils and Chrism which are used in baptism, confirmation, holy orders, and extreme unction, as also in consecrating baptismal fonts and altar stones, are blessed on this day. Let us thank our Lord for the institution of these Sacraments at which blessed oils are used.

How should we attend the Church service on this day?

As on this day the Church celebrates the annual commemoration of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament so, at the service, kneel down, O Christian, with devotion; bring to your mind, with living faith, that Jesus, your divine Teacher and Saviour, is really and truly here present. Adore Him as the Son of God, who became man and came upon the earth. Admire the love with which, that He might be always with us, He instituted the Blessed Sacrament. Render thanks to Him for all the valuable and instrumental graces which have flowed to you and to so many Christians from this Sacrament.