Holy Thursday is also known as “Maundy Thursday.” The word maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (commandment) which is the first word of the Gospel acclamation:
Mandátum novum do vobis dicit Dóminus, ut diligátis ínvicem, sicut diléxi vos:
“I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
These are the words spoken by our Lord to His apostles at the Last Supper, after he completed the washing of the feet.
Easter or Paschal Triduum is the ancient name given to the three days of the ‘pasch’ or ‘passing over’ of the Lord, beginning on the evening of Holy Thursday and ending on Easter Sunday. This is the “Feast of feasts”, the high point of the Church’s liturgical year, when we celebrate the heart of our faith — the great mystery of salvation when Our Lord Jesus Christ passes through suffering and death to the new life of the Resurrection.
The triduum liturgies teach us the meaning of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The richness of the rituals and symbols help us to experience the mysteries of Jesus’ final hours, His passion, suffering — and His rising from the dead. In a special way, during these three days,we come together as God’s people to remember the saving act of Jesus, the miracle of His resurrection – and to celebrate our faith and identity as Catholics. Because Christ was willing to die for our sins and was raised from the dead, death is no longer the end of life for us. It is the beginning of a new life in Him.
How can we enter deeply into these mysteries?
We have spent the past six weeks of Lent preparing to celebrate this great feast of all feasts. We have reflected on our personal failures to follow Christ in our thoughts, our words and our deeds. We have tried to make amends for the harm we have done by our actions and by our inaction. We have demonstrated our love for him and our neighbor by giving alms and by performing spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We have received the sacrament of Reconciliation and have received God’s forgiveness and mercy which has filled our hearts with peace and joy. Now, we continue to fast and pray. The purpose of the fasting is to gain awareness into the mysteries of the Triduum. Fasting from food – and sin — and increasing our acts of love, we stand at the foot of the cross on Good Friday –and reflect on the Passion of Christ. Jesus died for each of us. What greater love is there than this? Fasting helps us to become acutely aware of the hunger we have for Jesus – our desire to be like Him and our need for spiritual nourishment in order to do so. It causes us to eagerly desire to receive His body and his blood in the Holy Eucharist.
“Consider now attentively the three holy days of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of the Lord. From these three mysteries we realize in the present life that of which the cross is symbol, while we realize through faith and hope, that of which the burial and resurrection is symbol.” ~ St. Augustine (Letter 55,14,24).