Background on Holy Thursday

For Christians, there are a handful of religious observances that decorate our calendars. Not everyone is aware of the significance of such holy days. In this article, you will learn about the meaning of Holy Thursday, which will be celebrated in April of 2001.

Holy Thursday

On Thursday, April 1, 2010, Christians will commemorate Holy Thursday, which lands on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. The day marks the occasion when Christ celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples , an event that took place four days after His successful entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Just hours after the Last Supper, Judas would betray Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. This act would lead to His Crucifixion, which is now known as Good Friday.

Holy Thursday also commemorates the establishment of three pillars of the Catholic Faith: the priesthood, the Mass, and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

During the Last Supper, Christ Christ blessed the bread and wine with the same words that priests of the Catholic and Orthodox faith use when they “consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass and the Divine Liturgy.” When he told His disciples to “Do this in remembrance of Me,” He instituted the Mass and they became known as first priests.

On Holy Thursday, the priests of each diocese gather with their bishop to sanctify holy oils. The oils will be used throughout the year for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick, which is also known as Extreme Unction or Last Rites. This is a practice that dates back to ancient times , as far back as the 5th century. Referred to as the Chrism Mass, it was a practice that highlighted the importance of the role of a bishop, who was seen as a successor to the apostles. A practice from the past was to use a mixture of oil and balsam to create the holy oils.  

Each church will celebrate the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, but under very unique circumstances, another Mass is celebrated. It is called the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which is celebrated after the sun sets as a commemoration of the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The end is marked with the removal of the Body of Christ from the tabernacle in the central part of the church.

The Eucharist is transported in procession to another location, where is stays overnight. On Good Friday, it is to be distributed during the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion. Following the procession, the altar is stripped bare. All of the bells in the church are silenced the Gloria at the Easter Vigil that takes place on Holy Saturday.

A Prayer for Holy Thursday

Often times, Christians will gather in prayer on Holy Thursday. Anima Christi is a popular passage that is often associated after one receives Communion. The prayer dates back to the early part of the 14th century. The name of the prayer translates into ‘the soul of Christ’. With various translations, one includes:

“Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesus, listen to me;
In Thy wounds I fain would hide;
Ne’er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen.”