Wow! What an amazing Mass we had last night! What is it about Holy Thursday Mass that is so special? It is not just one thing, but many things - - from the humility of the priest washing the feet of his parishioners to the processional to the temporary tabernacle to the stripping of the altar. Each one of these things whispers Christ to me.
In past years, the parishioners chosen have included teens, women and men. This year, our priest had only men chosen. Twelve - - one for each Apostle. To see our priest in humble service washing feet is the reminder for us to go and do likewise. While I don't think Christ means for us to literally go around washing feet, there is that call to humble service. The kind of service that doesn't seek thanks or accolades of others. Humble service in the little things, like doing laundry without complaint (that's for me who has always had issues with laundry). Humility can be a hard thing. Who doesn't like a thank you for what they've done? How many times have you heard, or even said, "A "thank you" would be nice." Our Lord reminds us in the Bible that we should pray, fast and give alms in secret so that our reward will be in Heaven. I often remind my children that when they are seeking gratitude for a little act of kindness that instead they should be looking to store treasures in Heaven and perform their deeds without seeking gratitude. If you are looking for gratitude then you have been repaid, like those who pray, fast or give alms with loud claxons. I, too, can use these reminders about gratitude. As a mom of five, there are times when I seek "gratitude" for the things I do for my family. Let's face it, it is a human thing to want gratitude. Lord, let me serve others with humility, without seeking gratitude or accolades.
The procession and resultant, empty tabernacle, is a poignant reminder of Christ's "descent into hell," or the three days in the tomb. There is something about not having Christ in the tabernacle that is both sad and frightening, something that the Apostles surely felt after Christ's death. Sad because, as Catholics, we are so used to having Christ in the tabernacles of our churches. We can sometimes take it for granted. I reflect on communities where churches have closed due to dwindling populations or lack of priests to serve them. How sad it is - - especially in once thriving communities where people were use to walking to church and where life centered around the parish. It is also frightening. I think and reflect on all of the places in the world where celebrating Mass is akin to criminal activity. Or where Christians suffer under unjust laws. How many tabernacles lay empty due to any of these reasons? Lord, I pray for all of those communities and for us., that we may always be able to turn to you in the Eucharist.
St. Mary's in Hagerstown is a nice little church. At one time, it was a little more ornate with beautiful moldings. Some of that had been stripped away in some of the refurbishing, but the church still retains its beautiful stained glass windows, some of the beautiful molding, the altars and statuary, and its communion rail. The altar is always beautifully dressed in linens. There is a barrenness when the altar is stripped. Again, that sense of loss, sadness, of being alone. We cry out, "My Lord, my Lord, why have you forsaken us?" However, we wait in joyful anticipation, because we know what will happen in three days - - Christ will rise from the dead. For just a second, though, think about the disciples on that first Good Friday - - they didn't exactly know. Take a minute or two to contemplate their anxiety. Did the faith of the Apostle slip a little though as they waited in the Upper Room? I am sure Mary was there to offer some consolation, most assuredly a comforting presence to her son's disciples. And, if they had really considered our Lord's teachings, they knew He would rise from the dead, as promised.
Our faith is centered around Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven. After all, it was in His death that He sacrificed Himself for us all. It was in His resurrection that He triumphed over death. And it is in His ascension that He returns to His father, glorified, and waiting for those who would follow Him.
Have a Blessed Triduum! And a Happy Easter!