Liturgical readings are available here.
Liturgy of Holy Thursday invites us to reflect on the institution of the Eucharist, institution of the priestly order, and the commandment of fraternal charity.
The Eucharist is prefigured already in the Old Testament. Moses gives the Israelites instructions to take some of the blood of the lamb, and put it on the doorposts of the houses in which they eat the unleavened bread … The blood shall be a sign upon the houses where they are; when the LORD sees the blood, he will pass over, and no plague shall fall upon them to destroy them. God spares, forgives, and saves his people during this night of anguish.
This dimension of God’s action begs to be rediscovered and deepened in Christianity through personal encounter with Christ. It is in the Eucharist that we experience Christ who gives himself up for us, his blood is shed for the forgiveness of sin. Christ is doctor and healer, merciful samaritan. The Church very nicely defines this teaching talking about forgiveness we experience in our encounter with Christ:
The Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins.CCC 1393
It only brings to our attention what was present in the Church since the early centuries:
If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.St. Ambrose
The Eucharist comes along with the gift of the priesthood. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, narrates: This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way after supper: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. These words express the awareness of the Church that the action of Christ is to be made present repeatedly and lived again. There would be no Eucharist without priesthood. God can do everything he wants, but he chose to limit himself and gave himself to human hands. It is an act of humility on his end, and elevation of humanity. While pondering this mystery, we should also be thoughtful of all the Christian communities in the world, that have to live without the gift of the priesthood.
The Eucharist and the Priesthood overlap in the commandment of fraternal charity. Acting in remembrance of Christ means not just cherishing memories, but having a real communion with him who shares the gift of life and the gift of love. We are true to his gift, only if we share the same love for his body:
- the body of Christ present in sacramental form in the Eucharist
- the body of Christ present in tangible and physical form in our brothers and sisters
The gift fo the Eucharist and of the priesthood find their most profound expression in serving others.