Thursday, April 21, 2011

Would You Not Watch One Hour With Me?

One of my favorite memories in college was having the opportunity to attend Maundy Thursday Mass. My first experience with the traditional services, I was amazed to watch the priest actually washing the stinky feet of 12 young men of the parish. The humility of this act was astonishing. The gymnasium of the college was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, one could feel the "excitement" in the air that echoed what the Apostles may have felt during that Last Supper. The stripping of the decorated altar after Mass was striking. The bare and sudden coldness of the church was overwhelming. The Passion begins.

Immediately after Mass, hundreds of people filed out to walk solemnly to the chapel, which acted as an altar of repose for the Blessed Sacrament. This tradition stems from Our Lord asking "Could you not watch one hour with Me?"

This year, I am not fortunate enough to be able to attend Mass-- one more sacrifice to add to the till before Sunday! I was surprised to learn that there are even more Holy Thursday customs in other countries:

  •  Some faithful wake up in the middle of the night to make visits to keep a spiritual vigil in the Garden of Gethsemani with Jesus.
  • In Germany, Maundy Thursday is known as "Green Thursday" (Grundonnerstag), and the traditional foods are green vegetables and green salad, especially a spinach salad. 
  • In Latin countries, Jordan almonds ("confetti") are eaten today and also throughout Eastertide. 
  • When the Kings and Queens of England were Catholic, they would also wash the feet of 12 subjects,  as an example of service and humility. They would also give money to the poor on this day, a practice is said to have begun with St. Augustine of Canterbury in A.D. 597, and performed by Kings since Edward II. Today the footwashing isn't done (it was given up in the 18th c.), but a special coin called "Maundy Money" is minted and given to the selected elderly of a representative town.
On this day, a plenary indulgence can be gained by reciting the Tantum Ergo,
a hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas.
Will you not watch one hour with Him?

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