Why Maundy Thursday is an Important Part of Holy Week

Holy Thursday is a celebration of The Last Supper Jesus had with his Apostles before his death on the Cross. Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain narratives of this event in their Gospels. The Gospel of John gives a different account where Jesus washes the feet of his Apostles. During the Mass on Holy Thursday the priest washes the feet of parishoners as a sign of service.

Holy Thursday

This liturgical feast is one of my favorite in the entire church calendar. The institution of the Eucharist takes places on Holy Thursday. I also find the washing of feet as a profound gesture of love and service. Finally, the conclusion of the Mass sets up the stage for Good Friday― Jesus’ Death on the Cross.

Source and Summit

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1324, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Imagine climbing up a mountain and reaching the peak after many days (or weeks). Reaching Holy Thursday is sort of like getting to the top of a spiritual mountain after climbing and learning about the teachings of the Church.

Eucharist quote as source and summit

Those in RCIA might find a special appreciation for Holy Thursday as they have been slowly trekking through the teachings of the Church. The peak is the Eucharist― the gift of Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Beginning of the Priesthood

Another important theme in the Holy Thursday Mass is service and the role of the priests. Traditionally, the Church refers to Holy Thursday as Maundy Thursday. This word maundy refers to a foot washing ceremony for the poor. To read the full text click here: The Washing of the Disciples Feet.

Jesus washing Peters feet

Peter refused Jesus’ act of service at first. Jesus told him that unless Peter allowed him to clean his feet he didn’t have a place with him. While it may seem strange to our 21st century mind, washing feet of another in ancient Jewish culture was a symbol of humility and love. Walking was the primary mode of travel and people didn’t have socks or shoes to protect their feet only sandals. Jesus lowered himself as he knelt with a bowl of water to wash his Apostles soles (more importantly this was a sign he intended to cleanse their souls too).

Maundy Thursday

Jesus anointed the Apostles with the sacred office of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Pope Francis reminds us of this truth when he declared in a Holy Thursday homily in 2019, “We [priests] anoint by distributing ourselves, distributing our vocation and our heart. When we anoint other, we ourselves are anointed anew by the faith and affection of our people”.

Eucharist is Food to Sustain Us

Besides modeling servant leadership to his Apostles, Jesus specifically directed  the Twelve (or Eleven) to celebrate the breaking of the bread again and again.  In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus says,

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Early Church Tradition interpreted Jesus giving us his literal Body and Blood under the guise of bread and wine. Centuries later Saint Thomas Aquinas clarified the theology with his term transubstantiation. A close reading of John 6 will show Jesus had many opportunities to clarify whether or not he was speaking literally or figuratively. For more information on the Bread of Life Discourse read my article 3 Reasons Why Critically Reading John 6 Will Convert Protestants.

Eucharist meme

Jesus is the Bread of Life. He gives us strengthen and resolve to fend off the temptations of the Enemy. Saint Maria Faustina wrote, “Jesus, source of my life, sanctify me.  O my strength, fortify me.  My commander, fight for me.” Her words point the Eucharist sustains us.

Maundy Thursday and Unity in the Body of Christ

Reception of Holy Communion fosters greater unity in the Body of Christ too. Paragraph 1419 of the Catechism states, “Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints.”

Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. The priest or deacon washing the feet of the laity recalls Christ’ act of service to Peter and the other Apostles. On this Maundy Thursday may be ponder the gift of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. May be in a special way also pray for the Holy Spirit to guide all the clergy to serve with Christ-like love.

Reflection Questions

How will you serve the Body of Christ this year?

What can you do to show gratitude for Jesus giving us the Eucharist?

How can you support your local priest(s) in their ministry?

Related Links

Everything You Need to Know about the Sacred Triduum

The significance of Holy Thursday

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Why the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Neck of the Body of Christ

Saint Paul wrote, “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ  and individually parts of one another” (Romans 12:4-5).  We often hear priests and bishops tell us, the laity, to be the hands and feet of Christ. The analogy of the many parts making up a whole body makes sense to me. Everyone has an individual role based on your gifts and state in life. 

What I never thought about until recently was the specific role Mary plays (using this analogy of the Body of Christ). The Mother of God connects the faithful to her Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. In this post, I will share a few more reasons why Mary is the neck of the Body of Christ.

Her Humble Role in Salvation History

Mediatrix of Grace- Mary

There’s nothing flashy about the neck. It’s a humble muscle whose primary focus is to link the head to the rest of the human body. Likewise, Mary is the connector of the Body of Christ with Christ the Head. Saint Bernard said, “It is not hard to be humble in a hidden life, but to remain so in the midst of honors is a truly rare and beautiful virtue.” 

No other person in the history of Christianity (except for Christ) has as many titles or honor given as Mary. The angel Gabriel declared, “Hail, Mary full of grace” (Luke 1:28). To the average person this type of praise could lead to the sin of pride. Verse 29 referred to Mary as being “troubled” by the angel’s claim. According to St. Alphonsus’, “Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise, and desired that God only be praised.” 

The humble neck is an appropriate analogy to speak of the Blessed Virgin’s humility.

Testifies to Jesus’ Full Humanity

Incarnation icon funny meme

In the fourth century, there arose a heresy, or false teaching, that denied that Mary was the mother of Jesus. Named after the bishop Nestorius who promoted this belief, the heresy formally became known as Nestorianism.

The Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 declared that Mary is theotokos (the God-bearer). Led by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, the council fathers, wrote about Mary:

“Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh.” (DS 251).

Mary Mother of God

Catholics honor Mary as mother, and celebrate her motherhood on January 1st because:

  •  Jesus entrusted us into the care of Mary as our spiritual mother (see John 19:26-27).
  • Honoring the motherhood of Mary reminds us of the humanity of Jesus
  • Mary as Mother of God protects against heresies claiming Jesus wasn’t fully man

Necks and Nourishment

To Jesus thru Mary

Saint Bernard of Clairvoux  fittingly wrote about Mary, “‘channel’ or, even, the neck, through which the body is joined to the head, and likewise through which the head exerts its power and strength on the body. For she is the neck of our Head, by which all spiritual gifts are communicated to His Mystical Body.”  Saint Pope Pius X echoed the same sentiment in his encyclical Ad diem illum.

Food enters the mouth of the body and is carried down the neck (more precisely the esophagus) into the digestive system. In an analogous manner, Christ’s nourishing grace is channeled through Mary to the rest of the Church’s members.

During my first Marian consecration, I experienced a closer relationship to Jesus. Saint Louis de Montfort said,

[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.

Notice how the saint didn’t say Mary was the ONLY pathway to Christ. You can still pray directly to Jesus. It is in my experience that anytime I reflect on the life of Mary or ask her for help I always end with only thinking about her Son.

All analogies fall short of the reality they try to explain. But analogies help us understand things beyond our full comprehension. Mary is like the neck of the Body of Christ. Jesus entrusted the Church to his Mother (John 19:26-27). Examples from Church Tradition (Saints Bernard and Pope Pius X) and Scripture display how Mary’s primary role in salvation history is to give birth to Jesus and connect us with Him.

Related Links

Saint Pope Pius X’s Encyclical AD DIEM ILLUM LAETISSIMUM (On the Immaculate Conception)

How the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God actually teaches about Jesus

 

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How You Can be the Hands and Feet of Jesus during the Pandemic

Prayer

Pray for everyone affected by the coronavirus. Is the toilet paper shortage frustrating? Definitely, but remember we are all on the same side—Team Humanity.

We should be helping the most vulnerable. Why? Because Jesus did that. He dined with sinners and tax collectors. Allowed the prostitute to wash his feet with her hair and perfume—even though the elite ridiculed him for that decision.

Christ let the children come to listen to him. He wasn’t afraid to help the leper. When he was tempted by the Devil, despite being hungry and thirsty, Jesus never gave into worldly power.

Social distancing makes it tougher to help our neighbor in the same tangible way that Christ helped those around him. But that shouldn’t cause us to lead to inaction.

As a Catholic, I became an adopted son of God. The Holy Spirit swells within all baptized individuals. A creative force of Love, the Holy Spirit will never cease to inspire us and grant us the gifts of courage, understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and wonder. The key is we have to be ready to ask for the gifts. Humble ourselves.

Here are a few ways to be the hands and feet of Christ during this pandemic crisis:

Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus

1️⃣ Hand write letters you your family members, especially those lonely, neighbors, or even contact a nursing home to get names of senior citizens to write to.

2️⃣ Don’t take more than you need

There is a difference between gathering for reasonable concern over a quarantine versus hoarding goods in panicked response or because you want to turn a profit.

3️⃣ Exercise charity online

Social distancing doesn’t mean people will stop being social. Digital interactions will increase. While we have been used to social media for years, the newsfeed has become saturated with negativity about the virus.

Fighting fire with fire only leads to more flames. The same is true with negativity. Match pessimism with a greater dosage of positivity. Be kind and empathetic online to others. Share a funny anecdote about how you are dealing with this crisis.

Jesus forgave Peter for being a jerk who denied him three times. You can certainly forgive those people who acted uncharitably regarding this issue or those individuals whose hysteria led to hoarding.

St. Paul was right in writing in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no better time as the present to start. Learn from the suffering caused by this pandemic to love others!

Related Links

The Coronavirus and the Crowning of Mary

Profiting From The Panic Of The Coronavirus

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What I am, My Church Will Be: An Examination of Conscience for the Laity

By Meg Naumovski

The Catholic Church Needs the Laity Now More than Ever

If you are a parent, teacher or have any authority over anyone in a job, then you may understand the cross you must carry at times when called set down the parameters for success. As we enter the following examination of conscience as members of the church in light of recent events in our Catholic church, let us consider the responsibilities of our leaders, and take on the mindset of child being guided by a loving (and human) parent, or a docile sheep following his trusted shepherd.

As with any confession, this is not the time to confess the sins of others in excuse for our own sins.  This is a time to take a serious and deep look into our hearts and where we have failed to abide and participate in the well-being of our beautiful Mother Church.

Have I been praying for our leaders? Especially, priests, bishops and cardinals?

“When people want to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priest; for when there is no priest, there is no sacrifice; and when there is no sacrifice, there is no religion.”

— St. John Vianney.

While many of us sit and read the newspaper and watch our screens in horror at the sins of some of church leaders, we must ask ourselves in earnest, how many times have I honestly prayed for them in the past year? Month? Week? Today?

We should be praying for our church leaders. Every. Single. Day. Not only that, we need to be offering sacrifices and fasting.

If the millions of Catholics all over the world prayed for our leaders’ protection, the Holy Spirit would have listened and prevented many of the Enemy’s attacks on the clergy.

Over the years, my faithful group of Sisters in Christ have done some of the following weekly ideas:

  • A Holy Hour of Reparation
  • A rosary for our church leaders
  • Fasting on Fridays, even just from lunch
  • Offering your Sunday mass intention for them
  • A hand-written note reminding him that you appreciate the fact that he gave up his life to serve God and all of us.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. The smallest prayer and sacrifice can make a difference when we remember what God can do with the little we offer Him.

Do I understand that God works His will through my obedience to His authority?

Our priests are not supposed to be entertainers. I have heard people complain about the way he talks, the way he sings or doesn’t; his homilies are too long, too short or too “preachy” (really?) Maybe we didn’t like what he said or the way he said it. Maybe he told us something that challenged us or took away our favorite “toy” (Harry Potter Books, Yoga, Ouija, etc.) because he proclaimed the dangers it posed to our souls, and like a rebellious son or daughter, we reacted with an offended attitude of pride, and a sharp word for him and his failures.

Did we consider he is responsible for our sanctification? Sins of omission are when we hold back from telling the truth because of our own fear of rejection. He is responsible for the entirety of his parish in this way.

If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. 19 If, however, you warn the wicked and they still do not turn from their wickedness and evil conduct, they shall die for their sin, but you shall save your life. –Ezekiel 3:18-19

Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you. –Hebrews 13:17

Do I share in the priestly mission of the church by making my own holiness a priority?

What is the priestly mission of the church?

To understand the “priestly mission of the church”, we refer to CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI (POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II ON THE VOCATION AND THE MISSION OF THE LAY FAITHFUL IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD.)

The lay faithful are sharers in the priestly mission, for which Jesus offered himself on the cross and continues to be offered in the celebration of the Eucharist for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity. Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities (cf. Rom 12:1, 2).

How can I help the priestly mission of the church?

By offering my prayer, work, struggles, suffering and joys each day.

Speaking of the lay faithful the Council says: “For their work, prayers and apostolic endeavours, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labour, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life if patiently borne-all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pt 2:5). During the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord’s body. Thus as worshipers whose every deed is holy, the lay faithful consecrate the world itself to God”[23].

I recently stumbled upon a post on social media by a priest who is the new pastor of my home parish from years ago. He had posted a prayer that I found remarkably inspiring and it is the attitude we should all assume since each and everyone of us IS THE CHURCH.  Pick up your yoke, give thanks to God and learn from this holy attitude that he has each mass pray together after communion each week:

Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for our parish, St Mary’s Delaware. My parish is composed of people like me. I help make it what it is. It will be friendly, if I am. It will be holy, if I am holy. Its pews will be filled. if I help fill them. It will do great work, if I work. It will be prayerful, if I pray. It will make generous gifts to many causes, if I am a generous giver.

It will bring others to worship, if I invite and bring them in. It will be a place of loyalty and love, of fearlessness and faith, of compassion, charity and mercy, if I, who make it what it is, am filled with these same things. Therefore, with the help of God, I now dedicate myself to the task of being all the things that I want my parish to be. Amen. Sylvester Onyeachonam; pastor St Mary Church Delaware Ohio

 

Let us as laity follow the example of this loving shepherd and remember:

What I am, my church will be.


Megan Naumovski is a writer, teacher of the Catholic Faith, speaker and blogger at The Domestic Church of Bosco boscoworld.blog with a mission to form laity in the Church, support priests, and bridge Christian friendships beyond the borders of denominations. Formerly a youth minister, teacher of religious education and apostolate leader for youth, she now works in leadership with Catholic women and writes in her sleep because she can’t help it.

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Transformation—Power of the Resurrection this Easter 2019

Saint Pope John Paul II declared, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” The Enemy utilizes despair in an attempt to disable hope. Good Friday’s horror is not negated by Easter, but rather suffering is transformed. Transformation occurs when we take up our cross.

Among the biggest news stories this Easter was the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka. Deaths of nearly 300 Christians cause the Body of Christ deep pain. I cannot even begin to image the sadness, anger, confusion, doubts, and despair the victims’ families have to endure. Hope certainly would be the last thing on my mind. Death appears to have the final say. This suffering in South Asia may seem to supersede the joy of Easter. Words cannot do justice to describe their suffering. I can simply provide my prayers for peace and understanding.

Pray for Sri Lanka

 Christ’s victory over death on Easter brings purpose to pain. As Christians, we are called to unite our suffering with Christ’s in atonement for the world. According to St. Maria Faustina, “Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.” Only on the OTHER SIDE of suffering does her claim make sense.

During our suffering, we experience all sorts of doubts. We may question our purpose in life. I certainly did during my greatest period of despair—on the heels of losing unborn children due to miscarriage. I questioned God’s goodness about why would he allow a baby to die. The people in Sri Lanka I am sure ask God why their loved ones died in a senseless attack!

Faith tested in suffering

Suffering tested and later transformed my faith—from belief I took for granted to a faith of strong conviction. My capacity to suffer deepened. Because I lost my children, I have a greater ability to emphasize with others who lost loved ones. Far from being an expert in suffering, I became a student of Christ via my tribulations. While I aim to pick up my cross daily, I fail often. The true remedy is frequent reception of the Sacraments.

I hope the Sri Lankans find the strength to rely on God in their time of need. Hope is the greatest defense against despair and doubt. Hope is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When you do not feel hope please do not despair. Trudge forward daily and keep asking God for hope. Hope in Jesus’ Resurrection transforms us. If you are experiencing doubts, fears, or despair please ask for help. Post prayer requests in the comment section.

One Body of Christ


With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones.” –Ephesians 6:18

“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.g 13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.h

14Now the body is not a single part, but many. 15If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. 16Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, 23and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, 24whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, 25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. 26If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” –1 Corinthians 12: 12-26

 

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