Holy Thursday (w/Podcast)

So, this afternoon I had the pleasure of spending some one-on-one time with Buster, who came home from school asking if I wanted to take a drive to Montauk with him, revisit old haunts and eat some blueberry pie, as is our tradition.

I worried a little about it. Why would he want to do that – does he have bad news to break to me?

But no. He just wanted to retrace old steps, take a look at the very beautiful new church the parish of St. Therese of Lisieux has built in place of its old crumbling church, have a Guinness at the Irish pub, sit on the lovely, empty beach. I think perhaps now that he is a young man, he simply wanted to revisit a favorite memory of his boyhood – see it with adult eyes. Perhaps he wanted to discover that yes, he still loved the place, still walked down to the tide thinking, “it’s so beautiful.”

It’s so beautiful. The weather was lovely (being Irish my very brief sit on the beach left me scalded. Buster, being an olive-skinned Italian, looks fine). When we checked into St. Therese’s, a priest was setting up altar cloths for tonight’s Mass for Holy Thursday, aka “The Foot Washing Mass,” where the pastor washes the feet of 12 of his parishioners in imitation of Christ.

(Shamelessly cribbed from Fr. James Martin’s Meditation)

This night, this mass, is always a huge source of joy and thanksgiving for me – I think of how thankful we are, even in this very stressful year – to be healthy, to be family. Yes, we’re concerned about jobs, yes, we are concerned about many things. But today I got to sit on a beach, and hear the waves, and watch them crash upon the shore, and talk to one of my babies, and to “do” nothing, but just simply “be.” It is a great gift.

When we think of Christ washing the feet of his disciples, especially of tempestuous Peter, we realize that God “tends to” us, every day, in ways we sometimes recognise and sometimes do not. God tends to us. We never say “thank you” enough.

At the end of tonight’s mass, the Holy Eucharist will be taken from the Tabernacle – the Tabernacle will be vacated and its door left ajar, and the Eucharist transferred to an Altar of Repose – away from the sanctuary. The Holy Water will be removed from the fonts by the doors.

To walk into a church of a Good Friday, is to feel the difference between a Holy Place and a “worship space.” On a normal day, my parish is so imbued with a sense of prayer and Presence that one almost wishes to remove one’s shoes when entering. Tomorrow, it will feel empty, as soon as I open the door. Then, to enter and feel no water at one’s fingers is startling. To look up and see an empty Tabernacle makes one gasp. The statues are shrouded. The candles are out. Everything is gone; Christ has left us and we are in grief.

At our parish, the Pange Lingua (Sing, my tongue) is the hymn we sing as we process to a separate area, with the Holy Eucharist, where it will repose, as though lying in state. It has a beautiful, fitting, Semitic and wandering air and the words by St. Thomas Aquinas. I’ve podcasted it here, badly, just so you can learn the melody if you’d like to try it:

SING, my tongue, the Savior’s glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world’s redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.

On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law’s command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;-
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.

To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty.

Also: How the Monastics do it

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    The eerie emptiness. The empty Tabernacle, the empty altar, the empty sanctuary. The beginning to genuflect out of habit leaving the pew, only to remember that there is nothing there, no One there, to genuflect to. Jesus is not where He is supposed to be. He’s not at home and even the lights are out.

    There is something eerily unnatural about an empty Catholic church. Imagine if the world were like that . . . all the time.

  • http://dailywoof.wordpress.com Kensington

    Yeah, it was quite an evening, as far as the Holy Thursday services went. I attended two different overlapping Masses and so got to see how each church handled the procession of the Eucharist to the repose Altar. In each instance I felt like I could have sat there forever, but it makes me sad, too, because observing the devotion of others is a reminder that my own faith isn’t nearly as strong as I’d like it to be. Often I just feel like I’m going through the motions, content that maybe it’s enough that I’m a good reader at Mass and, by so being, am able to help the others who are more truly devout.

    Looking forward to the Vigil, in any case.

  • cathyf

    Try this translation — it’s much more lyrical:

    Of the glorious Body telling,
    O my tongue, its mysteries sing,
    and the Blood, all price excelling,
    which the world’s eternal King,
    in a noble womb once dwelling
    shed for the world’s ransoming.

    Given for us, for us descending,
    of a Virgin to proceed,
    man with man in converse blending,
    scattered he the Gospel seed,
    till his sojourn drew to ending,
    which he closed in wondrous deed.

    At the last great Supper lying
    circled by his brethren’s band,
    meekly with the law complying,
    first he finished its command
    then, immortal Food supplying,
    gave himself with his own hand.

    Word made Flesh, by word he maketh
    very bread his Flesh to be;
    man in wine Christ’s Blood partaketh:
    and if senses fail to see,
    faith alone the true heart waketh
    to behold the mystery.

    Therefore we, before him bending,
    this great Sacrament revere;
    types and shadows have their ending,
    for the newer rite is here;
    faith, our outward sense befriending,
    makes the inward vision clear.

    Glory let us give, and blessing
    to the Father and the Son;
    honour, might, and praise addressing,
    while eternal ages run;
    ever too his love confessing,
    who, from both, with both is one.