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Holy Thursday

Thursday, April 21, 2011, 17:42 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Today marks the first day of what Catholics, Orthodox, and some Protestants call the Paschal Triduum, the three days preceding Easter Sunday. Holy Thursday (also known as Maundy Thursday and a number of other names) commemorates the Last Supper, which was a Passover seder Jesus celebrated with his followers. According to the canonical gospels, it was after the seder that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested, tried, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Jesus’ death is commemorated on Good Friday. Holy Saturday is more or less a waiting day before Easter, though we Catholics typically celebrate the first Easter liturgy on Saturday evening anytime after sunset.

There is a stark contrast between the solemn observances on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and the spectacular celebration of Easter. It probably wasn’t quite that way after Jesus died, as the followers were at first confused when they found his body missing from the tomb on that Sunday morning. The gospels describe varying delays in their grasping the resurrection and what it meant. We who remember those events 2,000 years later haven’t experienced the abject despair the followers felt after Jesus was executed; we have the advantage of knowing how it all turned out. But when you’re in the throes of mourning (or any life trial, for that matter) and don’t realize that something better is coming, it’s hard to have hope.

Personally, I remember every year that it was Holy Thursday when my boyfriend’s father died many years ago. Even at the time, I found the juxtaposition of his death with the commemoration of Jesus’ death and resurrection to be very profound. I like to think that Christians who die during Holy Week have a special connection to Jesus.

This Holy Thursday also marks the home stretch of what is my last year as RCIC Coordinator at my former parish. RCIC (Rite of Catholic Initiation of Children) is a Catholic program whereby older children who have not yet received the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation (Penance or Confession), and/or Eucharist (Communion) have special religious instruction and then receive those sacraments. For the third time in the five (or is it six?) years I have run this program, I have a student being baptized at the Easter Vigil on Saturday Evening. For the first time, all the children are receiving their first Eucharist at the Vigil as well. Tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday morning and afternoon will be a flurry of final preparations, after which I will be done, stepping aside for someone else to take the reins and carry on the program. For me, it’s time to move on.

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