All three synoptic gospels mention a solemn meal held by Jesus with his disciples in the evening before his death. Matthew, Mark, and Luke cast it as Passover meal, celebrated during the night from 14th to 15th of Nisan. Then, Jesus dies on the 15th of Nisan, which was a preparation day for Shabbat.
John’s chronology differs here and Jesus dies already at the time when the Passover lambs are slaughtered at the temple (on 14th of Nisan), which highlights that Jesus himself is the lamb sacrificed for human sins. John’s report about the last supper talks about the washing of feet, identification of the betrayer, and the prayer of Jesus.
Further events from the gospel already anticipate the passion of Good Friday: the move to the Garden of Gethsemane and the prayer of Jesus there, his arrest in the middle of the night, interrogation in front of the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, denial by Peter.
The earliest reports about this day mention two Eucharistic celebrations in Jerusalem, as well as in North Africa in the times of St. Augustine.
The Roman Church used to celebrate the reconciliation and reception of penitents into communion. Eventually, after the 7th century, three liturgies were celebrated in three various titular churches:
- reception of sinners
- consecration of oils
- remembering of the Last Supper
The pope himself used to celebrate just one liturgy in the Lateran Basilica where he would consecrate the oils.
The custom to consecrate holy oils was probably based on practical considerations, as oils were needed for the celebration of baptism during Easter night. The washing of feet as a liturgical celebration is attested for the first time in the 7th century in Spain and Gallia.
Holy Thursday has a particular standing in the liturgy. Being a weekday of the Holy Week it also ushers into the celebration of the Holy Triduum (Passion, death, and resurrection).
Priests celebrate a Chrism Mass with their bishop in the morning, where oils are consecrated:
- Oil of the sick
- Oil of the catechumens
The evening mass commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples.
- bells are silenced after Gloria until the Easter Vigil
- the readings talk about the slaughtering of the lambs (Exo 12) institution of the Eucharistic meal (1 Cor 11), and washing of the feet (John 13)
- washing of the feet after the homily
- the Eucharist is transferred outside of the Church and kept for the sick
- the altar is stripped
- the faithful are invited to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
The Eucharistic celebration can continue in a house setting through a common meal – agape. Small loaves of bread can be blessed during the liturgy and distributed for this purpose. Especially lonely and needy people should be invited to these meals.
Holy Mass at Ss. Cyril & Methodius on Holy Thursday is at 7:00PM.