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Video:What Is Holy Thursday?

with Jacob Taxis

Holy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter and is a day of great importance in Catholicism. This video from About.com will explain the significance of Holy Thursday.See Transcript

Transcript:What Is Holy Thursday?

Hi, I'm Jacob Taxis for About.com. In this video, we will discuss the significance and meaning of Holy Thursday from the viewpoint of Roman Catholicism.

When is Holy Thursday?

Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday refers to the Thursday before Easter. It is the first of the last three days of Holy Week which are collectively termed the Sacred Triduum. Holy Thursday is followed by the final two days of the Triduum: Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

For Roman Catholics, Holy Thursday commemorates the key interrelated events of the night before the crucifixion of Jesus, each of which is saturated in meaning.

Eucharist Instituted on Holy Thursday

First, Holy Thursday commemorates the evening on which Jesus Christ institutes the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion. In Luke 22:19-20, Jesus shares a final Passover meal with his disciples the night before he is crucified in Jerusalem.

According to Luke, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks for it, breaks it, and serves it to his disciples, saying "This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Jesus then takes the wine, saying, "This cup is the new covenant of my blood, poured out for you."

In the Catholic Eucharist, the bread and wine become the very body and blood of the Lord Jesus. His body and blood are truly present in the appearance of bread and wine. It is this Eucharistic Body and Blood of which Catholics eat and drink at Holy Communion, signifying, among other realities, union with Christ and grateful reception of his grace.

Holy Thursday Commemorates Sacerdotal Priesthood

Second, Holy Thursday commemorates Christ's institution of what Catholics call the sacerdotal priesthood. Jesus Christ offered himself as the Passover Victim and, therefore, every ordained Catholic priest – by the command of Jesus – offers the eternal sacrifice of Christ at the altar for the life of the Church. In this way, the priest presents this on-going offering until Christ returns in glory.

Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet

Third, Holy Thursday commemorates the night on which Jesus washes his disciples' feet, as is recorded in John 13:5, and gives to his disciples a new command, as is described in John 13:34.

Over the course of the meal, Jesus commands his disciples to love one another. "As I have loved you," Jesus says, "so must you love one another." This love is conveyed in Christ's washing of his disciples' feet and in his eternal sacrifice on the cross on Good Friday.

For this reason, Holy Thursday is also called Maundy Thursday. "Maundy" is derived from the Latin mandatum, meaning "commandment."

Two Masses are observed in Catholic cathedrals worldwide on this day: the Chrism Mass and the Mass of the Lord's Supper.

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