Thursday of Holy Week: Jesus Institutes the Eucharist – the definitive sacrifice of the New Covenant.


HOLY THURSDAY, marks the beginning of the sacred Triduum, or “three days.” Earlier this day Jesus had given instructions to the disciples on how to prepare for this most holy meal, which will be his last supper.

Through the day they make these preparations (cf Mt 26:17). In the Mass of the Lord’s Supper conducted at our parishes, we remember and make present that Last Supper which Jesus shared with his disciples. We are in the upper room with Jesus and the Apostles and do what they did. Through the ritual of washing the feet (Jn 13:1) of 12 parishioners, we unite in service to one another. Through our celebration of this first Mass and Holy Eucharist (Mt 26:26), we unite ourselves to Jesus and receive his Body and Blood as if for the first time.

At this Eucharist, we especially thank God for his gift of the ministerial priesthood.

After the Last Supper (First Mass) the apostles and Jesus made a short journey across the Kidron Valley to the Garden where he asks them to pray and he experiences his agony (cf Mt 26:30). We too will process in Church with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to a garden (the altar of repose) which has been prepared.

The liturgy ends in silence.

It is an ancient custom to spend an hour before the reposed Blessed Sacrament tonight. We are with Jesus in the Garden and pray as he goes through his agony. Most of our parish churches remain open until close to midnight. It was near Midnight that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to the house of the High Priest.

Matthew 26:36-50  Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani. And he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray. And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch with me.

And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt.  And he cometh to his disciples and findeth them asleep. And he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?

Watch ye: and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Again the second time, he went and prayed, saying: My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done. And he cometh again and findeth them sleeping: for their eyes were heavy.  And leaving them, he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word. Then he cometh to his disciples and said to them: Sleep ye now and take your rest.

Behold the hour is at hand: and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise: let us go. Behold he is at hand that will betray me. As he yet spoke, behold Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the ancients of the people. And he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he. Hold him fast. And forthwith coming to Jesus, he said: Hail, Rabbi. And he kissed him. And Jesus said to him: Friend, whereto art thou come? Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and held him.

Link

“And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:44)


Q: Did Jesus really sweat blood during his “Agony in the Garden”?

A: Jesus certainly could have, if he wanted to. Let’s see what the Bible says:

Luke 22:39-44  And going out, he went, according to his custom, to the Mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him. And when he was come to the place, he said to them: Pray, lest ye enter into temptation. And he was withdrawn away from them a stone’s cast. And kneeling down, he prayed. Saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer.  And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.

Luke’s account seems to indicate that Jesus sweat was like drops of blood. I haven’t found anything to definitively prove that Jesus actually sweated blood, although there is general medical evidence which seems to attest to that possibility.

Here’s another distinct possibility – a total lunar eclipse:

The Jewish Passover (and our Easter Sunday) always closely corresponds with the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox, every spring. The actual calendar date jumps around a lot, but from this, the day itself is fairly easy to determine.

Let’s assume that Holy Thursday was also accompanied by a great (and quite appropriate) sign in the Heavens … a total lunar eclipse … an event which is known to occasionally result in the moon looking deeply red in color … just like blood.

In that event, large drops of sweat would be illuminated by the relatively bright, reddish light … becoming as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.

The prophet Joel seemed to have some particular insight into this, as well:

Joel 2:27-32  And you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: and I am the Lord your God, and there is none besides: and my people shall not be confounded forever.  And it shall come to pass after this, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Moreover, upon my servants and handmaids in those days I will pour forth my spirit.  And I will shew wonders in heaven; and in earth, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood: before the great and dreadful day of the Lord doth come. And it shall come to pass, that every one that shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved: for in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem shall be salvation, as the Lord hath said, and in the residue whom the Lord shall call.

What does “Gethsemane” mean?


Q: What does “Gethsemane” (as in the Mount of Olives-Garden of Gethsemani/Gethsemane)?

A: “Gethsemane” means “olive oil press”.

More from the Catholic Encyclopedia

A place so memorable, to which all the Evangelists direct attention, was not lost sight of by the early Christians. In his “Onomasticon,” Eusebius of Caesarea says that Gethsemani is situated “at the foot of the Mount of Olives”, and he adds that “the faithful were accustomed to go there to pray“.

In 333 the Pilgrim of Bordeaux visited the place, arriving by the road which climbs to the summit of the mountain, i.e. beyond the bridge across the valley of Josaphat. In the time of the Jews, the bridge which spanned the torrent of Cedron occupied nearly the same place as one which is seen there today, as is testified by the ancient staircase cut in the rock, which on one side came down from the town and on the other wound to the top of the mountain. Petronius, Bishop of Bologna (c. 420), and Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, speak of this immense staircase and two other pilgrims counted the steps. Traces of it are still to be seen on the side towards the city, and numerous steps, very large and well-preserved, have been discovered above the present Garden of Gathsemani.

The Pilgrim of Bordeaux notes “to the left, among the vines, the stone where Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ”.

In translating the “Onomasticon” of Eusebius, St. Jerome adds to the article Gethsemani the statement that “a church is now built there” (Onomasticon, ed. Klostermann, p. 75). St. Sylvia of Aquitania (385-388) relates that on Holy Thursday the procession coming down from the Mount of Olives made a station at “the beautiful church” built on the spot where Jesus underwent the Agony. “From there”, she adds, “they descend to Gethsemani where Christ was taken prisoner” (S. Silviae Aquit. Peregr., ed. Gamurrini, 1888, pp. 62-63).

This church, remarkable for its beautiful columns (Theophanes, Chronogr. ad an. 682), was destroyed by the Persians in 614; rebuilt by the Crusaders, and finally razed, probably in 1219. Arculf (c. 670), St. Willibald (723), Daniel the Russian (1106), and John of Wurzburg (1165) mention the Church of the Agony. The foundations have recently been discovered at the place indicated by them, i.e. at a very short distance from the south-east corner of the present Garden of Gethsemani.

A fragmentary account of a pilgrimage in the fourth century, preserved by Peter the Deacon (1037), mentions “a grotto at the place where the Jews took the Savior captive”.

According to the tradition it was in this grotto that Christ was wont to take refuge with his disciples to pass the night. It was also memorable for a supper and a washing of the feet which, according to the same tradition, took place there.

Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 583), says in one of his sermons that the Church commemorates three suppers. “The first repast”, he says, “together with the purification, took place at Gethsemani on the Sabbath day, the first day, i.e. when Sunday was already begun. That is why we then celebrate the vigil” (P.G., LXXXVI, 2392). The second supper was that of Bethany, and the third was that was that of Holy Thursday at which was instituted the Holy Eucharist.

Photo credit –  Dell Tacket