Holy Thursday: A new 'passing over' to the Promised Land
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar by Fr Michael Kilmartin. During the liturgy, the washing of the feet was reenacted and, at the end of the Mass, the Eucharistic procession led the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose.
Click here for photos from the Mass if you cannot view the gallery below.
The homilist was Mgr Hugh Connolly, President of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Reflecting on the essential link between the Jewish tradition and the New Covenant, Mgr Connoly observed:
The Passover was for the People of Israel the great feast of their freedom from slavery, from exile and from persecution. It was and is honoured across the generations by the Jewish people wherever they find themselves. Jesus in turn, chose this feast to herald the celebration of his own message of Good News for all people of all cultures and languages and eras. His Eucharist, the Last Supper was to mark a new kind of passing over a passing over from the reign of sin to the Promised Land of forgiveness and of new life and reconciliation. This is therefore no ordinary supper or meal. It is a meal which has a unique and defining context. In a particular way it means that Jesus’ followers, his disciples and his friends, are prepared to commit themselves to a new way of love, service, reconciliation and witness to his Good News. And so, by implication, we who celebrate the same Eucharist here this evening are recommitting ourselves to that mission, that message and that Good News of Jesus Christ.
Commenting on the invitation to follow Christ’s words and example, the homilist said:
‘Do this in memory of me’ said Jesus to his friends at the Last Supper. But it was not just the eating of the bread and the drinking from the cup which he had in mind when he said these words; it is also the commitment to service which goes with it.
Every time Mass is offered, those same words are repeated; the same sacrifice is re-lived; the same bread is broken and shared and the same commitment is pledged. And wherever Mass has been celebrated ever since the last supper that has been its central meaning whether with all the pomp and ceremony of a majestic cathedral celebration or whispered in hiding at a windswept mass rock; whether in front of a congregation of thousands or listened to by those who are house bound or incapacitated or confined to a hospital bed; whether at the celebration of matrimony where two people pledge their love for each other or at a funeral mass where we pray for the eternal rest of a loved one. In all of these different scenarios we are still carrying out the command of Jesus who is right here in our midst. ‘Do this in Memory of Me’. And so for us the Last Supper the First Mass, the Holy Eucharist is therefore the great Christian prayer.
Mgr Connolly also addressed the anniversary of the Cathedral’s consecration in the context of the Holy Thursday liturgy:
This Cathedral is the place where some of you here this evening marked the key moments in your lives. Many of you were carried here as infants to be baptized. Later you made your First Confession and First Communion here. Some of you perhaps even walked up the aisle here on your wedding day, or walked behind the coffin of a loved one on the day of a family funeral; or rejoiced at the ordination of a family member perhaps. Because, you know, this Cathedral is not just the sanctuary of God’s presence, but it is also the repository of many of the most precious memories of your lives. Most importantly of all, this church is the place where you as a community gather to worship and pray. You come together as God’s people to celebrate the Mass, the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection and his continuing presence among us until the end of time.
That too of course encapsulates the mystery of Holy Thursday where Jesus gives to his church gifts which are at once a mystery of faith and also a mystery of love. And so it is out of this love and these gifts that Jesus immortalizes himself among us. He does not do it in the way we tend to want to perpetuate ourselves. He does not want to be remembered like the Pharaohs by their huge pyramids, or like the Roman Emperor with his ornate monuments, or even like the Greek statesmen and philosophers by having imposing effigies erected in their names in recognition all they have done during their lives. Out of his love, He perpetuates himself instead in two ways – in lives of daily service and in the mystery of his Eucharist.
The homilist concluded with a reference to the poet Seamus Heaney:
In his poem Scaffolding he reminds us that the true edifice is always more lasting than the scaffold. A reminder perhaps that the edifice of faith will remains when this building and many more like it will reach the end of their natural lives and have to be replaced. This Cathedral after all and all the great Centres of Pilgrimage and worship throughout the world are but the scaffolding for the church made out of living stones which is you the People of God:
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job is done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.
Lets hope the walls of living stones that we build in this generation and in the generations to come here in Cathedral, will always be used to shelter, to comfort, and to protect because they will have been built upon the sure foundations of service, witness and self sacrifice of all those who have gone before us and whose memory we honour and celebrate here this day.