Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dominican Holy Thursday

Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P. contintues with his, Riches of a Dominican Holy Week series, looking at Holy Thursday:

Holy Thursday marks the beginning of the great Paschal Triduum, and one immediately notices the changes it brings to the rhythm of life of a Dominican Priory. There is no morning Mass - and when one is accustomed to the consoling graces of the Eucharist to start the day, this is a very significant change. Also, the white Dominican habit will, from this evening until the Gloria sounds at the Easter Vigil, be shrouded in the Order's distinctive black cappa.

The concelebrated evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, beautiful and solemn, has in our life a special significance - it is the commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist and also of the Priesthood. Because our communities are composed principally of priests, the common celebration of our priesthood affords us - as communities - the opportunity to give thanks for this incomparable gift.

Holy Thursday's Mass, according to the current Dominican propers for Holy Week, is largely the same as that in the current Missale Romanum. Outside of Mass, however, the Dominican Proprium has retained a number of our distinctive Holy Week customs. For example, we have the option to recite in common the Seven Penitential Psalms. More poignant for Holy Thursday, we meditate on the Sermo Domini, the Lord's farewell discourse to his disciples (John's Gospel, chapters 13-17), which is read in its entirety during our evening meal in the Refectory. When the Sermo is read in such a way, it is as if the Lord himself were consoling us as we approach the mystery of his passion. Still more meaningful for our common life is the private celebration of the Washing of the Feet, the Mandatum (from which Maundy Thursday gets its name), when the Prior washes the feet of the brethren. I will not soon forget how moving it was for me the first time I experienced this as a novice at St. Gertrude Priory. There is something about having one's feet washed that is at the same time both humbling and enobling - all the more so when it is done by one's religious superior.

How moved must the apostles have been when the Lord himself paid such reverence to them! Here we encounter the mystery of His self-emptying love, a love that pays no heed to the humiliation He suffers. How great is the love for us that He shows in these days. Would that we would open our hearts to it!

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