On Holy Thursday, we commemorate “Last Supper” in which Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist. Jesus, a Jew, was celebrating the feast of the Passover on the night he was betrayed.
The Apostle Paul, many years after Jesus’ death, sternly warned the Church in Corinth not to celebrate the Eucharist unworthily. Although already emphasized in the Gospel, he retells them in his letter, “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” –I Corinthians 11:23-26.
Chrism Mass: Traditionally on the morning of Holy Thursday, the Bishop will celebrate Mass with priests from all over his diocese and consecrate and distribute the holy chrism(oils) used for baptism and confirmation for the year.
Mass of the Last Supper: In the evening, Catholics gather at their local church to celebrate a very special Mass. At this Mass, the priest washes the feet of twelve selected men(sometimes altar boys or even all of the men present) to take part in an act of humility and service that Jesus did on that holy night two thousand years ago. After Mass, the Eucharist will be taken in a long procession around the church as the Pangue Lingua and Tantum Ergo are sung. The altar will be stripped of any decorations and cloths and the Eucharist will be placed somewhere else in the church for adorers to pray until Midnight when it becomes Good Friday.
The Pange Lingua, which includes the Tantum Ergo, was written by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century to sing about the glory of the Eucharist.
Procession of the Eucharist at the Archbasilica of St John Lateran, the Pope’s Cathedral in Rome.