During the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday (April 5) in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, there was a theme to Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost’s homily: “Remember!”
He encouraged the congregation to remember events from the Old Testament including sacrificial blood painted on homes, applied to doorposts and lintels and roasted lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs eaten standing in traveling clothes, bags packed for the journey.
(See photo gallery above.)
He also reminded the congregation that Jesus presided at a sacred dinner party the night before he died. “Remember! Bread and wine, blessed and given, God present, divinity sacramentally enfleshed,” Bishop Woost said. He mentioned “feet and water, basin and towel,” referring to Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and instructing them to do as he had done.
“Remember,” the bishop said. “Tonight is a night for remembering. Three days, the Paschal triduum, an invitation to remember and never forget.
He told the congregation every liturgy is more than simply recalling what happened in the past. “We are being embraced by the mystery of God’s present and saving activity. Yes. The foundation for our remembering on this Holy Thursday is the memory of god acting to save the chosen people from slavery 1,200 years before the birth of Christ and Jesus’ Last Supper almost 2,000 years ago.”
Bishop Woost said remembering is not only bringing back to conscious memory the events of the past, it also is being attentive to God’s saving activity through Christ Jesus in the power of the Spirit. “Christ, the eternal priest, is still acting by taking, blessing, breaking and giving that we may enter deeper communion with him and one another,” he added.
Foot washing becomes Eucharist and Mass becomes mission, the bishop explained. “For our part, we must remember not just what occurred in ages past, but what is happening here and now. Be attentive to the mystery unfolding. Be mindful of God present and active,” he added.
Reflecting on the readings for the day, the bishop said the texts move from slavery to freedom, disunity to communion and from self-centeredness to self-giving.
“On this night in particular, the Church invites us to remember the principal mysteries commemorated at this Mass. To be mindful of and attentive to the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the institution of the priestly order and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity,” he said.
The second reading from St. Paul gives the earliest written account of Jesus’ final meal with his disciples on the night before he died. The three Scripture readings recall that God chooses to act through human agents, Bishop Woost explained. “Moses, Paul and supremely Jesus serve as ministers of God’s presence and saving activity. We should not be surprised then that tonight we remember Christ’s will to institute the priestly order as an ongoing incarnation of his ministry as head and shepherd of the Church.
St. Thomas Aquinas said Christ is the only priest. All others share in his priesthood either by virtue of their baptism or, in addition, by receiving the sacrament of holy orders.
With regard to the Lord’s command of charity, Bishop Woost said we were reminded of God’s love for us when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and told them to do as he had done. And the Eucharist and priesthood are means to an end: the communion and servicer of love, he said.
“We are all called to be foot washers, missionary disciples, enfleshing the Lord’s command to love as he has loved us. Daily we are called to lay down our lives, giving our all to God and neighbor, simply out of love. Remember and live the mystery,” the bishop said.
During the liturgy, Bishop Edward Malesic, principal celebrant, washed the feet of several people.
At the end of the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the tabernacle and placed in another tabernacle on the altar of repose, where it remained until Holy Saturday.
The cathedral was one of 21 churches station churches that remained open until 11 p.m. on Holy Thursday. There is a tradition in Rome for the faithful to visit seven churches after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
This was the first year for station churches in the Diocese of Cleveland. Father Damian Ference, vicar for evangelization, said the 21 participating churches were in areas with high young adult populations.