Christ Ordained

Holy Thursday

What the Old Testament foreshadowed, the New Testament reveals. What the Old Covenant prefigured, God’s New Covenant fulfills. What our Lord prepared in ancient times, he now bestows to his Church. The Holy Scriptures point to the gifts of God we particularly celebrate on this evening: the Holy Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist.

In the Book of Exodus, the Lord declares to Moses: “This is the rite you shall perform in consecrating [Aaron and his sons] as my priests. … Aaron and his sons you shall…bring to the entrance of the tent of meeting and there wash them with water.” On Holy Thursday, “[Jesus] rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

Peter said to the Lord, “You will never wash my feet.” But Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” The Book of Deuteronomy taught, “The levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no [landed] portion or [territorial] inheritance with Israel…. [T]he Lord set apart the tribe of Levi,” Deuteronomy says, “to carry the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister to him, and to bless in his name…. For this reason, Levi has no portion or inheritance with his relatives; the Lord himself is his inheritance….

When Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me,” Simon Peter replied, “Master, then [wash] not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” As part of the priestly ordination ritual in the Book of Exodus, the Lord commanded Moses: “[Sacrifice an unblemished male sheep and] some of its blood you shall take and put on the tip of Aaron’s right ear and on the tips of his sons’ right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and the great toes of their right feet. Splash the rest of the blood on all the sides of the altar.” Jesus says Peter does not need to be washed all over, head and hand and foot, because whoever has bathed is clean. (This is likely a reference to his baptism.) But at the Last Supper, the Body of God’s perfect, unblemished Lamb is broken and his Blood is poured for the apostles.

As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “[T]he Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.’” On Holy Thursday, the apostles receive the Blood of the Lamb and then, on Good Friday, this Blood marks the sides of the Lamb’s Altar, the vertical and horizontal beams of the Cross.

In Egypt before the Exodus, when the Lord instituted the Passover sacrifice, he commanded his people: “[E]very one of your families must procure for itself a lamb… The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish…. It shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh…. This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate… as a perpetual institution.” At the first Eucharist, Jesus commands his apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me,” thereby ordaining them as his priests of his New Covenant.

The apostles had been washed with water, sanctified by blood, bestowed an inheritance in the Lord, and entrusted with the mission of offering the unblemished Lamb. As the Catholic Church has always believed and taught, this memorial sacrifice, this Eucharist, re-presents, truly makes present, the sacrifice of the Cross, and applies its saving fruits among us. On Holy Thursday, Jesus gave his New Covenant Church the intertwined gifts of the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood.

The trial of this Long Lent of 2020 has made Catholics more appreciative of God’s precious gifts. This evening, we are blessed by the presence of the three seminarians from our local parishes assisting at Mass. We thank God for their vocations and urge them to press on. Eventually, this Long Lent of the Church will joyfully end and these young men will be (God willing) ordained to serve her, offering Christ’s sacrifice as loving servants for the good of us all. Pray for our seminarians, Eric, Matthew, and Isaac, that they may take up the cup of salvation; that they may offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord; that they may fulfill ordination promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people. And with patient eagerness let us pray for the coming day when all of us, God’s priests and his people, can celebrate the Mass together again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: