Friday, 6 April 2007

Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

The night before his death, Our Lord instituted the Eucharist, the means of perpeatuating his Sacrifice for the salvation of the world, and of fulfilling his promise to remain with us to the end of the world.

In memory of the Lord's Supper, the Mass this evening is celebrated with great joy. The priests wear white, and during the Gloria all the bells are rung, and the organ plays before falling silent until Easter Sunday.

The Gospel this evening is John 13: 1 - 15, where Jesus rises from the table of the Last Supper, removes his outer garment, and washes the feet of his disciples.

Following the example of Christ, who washed the feet of his disciples, the Cardinal removes his chasuble and washes the feet of twelve men. At Westminster Cathedral these are residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea - the famed 'Chelsea Pensioners.' arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, was founded by King Charles II (or, more popularly, by Nell Gwynn) in 1681, and is a retirement home for 300 British soldiers. You can learn more about it here.

As the Pensioners' feet are washed, the Choir sings the plainchant antiphon: Mandatum novum do vobis, ut diligatis invicem, sicut dilexi vos, dicit Dominus. (I give you a new commandment; love one another, just as I have loved you.)

This is the Mandatum from which Maundy Thursday takes its name.

One of the Pensioners later quipped, "I was here last year, and the Cardinal washed my right foot; this year he washed my right foot as well. I said to him, 'Can you wash the left foot next year - it's getting a bit dirty!'"
After the Mass, we walk with Jesus as he begins his Passion, moving in procession with the Blessed sacrament to the Altar of Repose. Below, the canopy above the Blessed Sacrament approaches the Lady Chapel - site of the Altar of Repose.

At the same time, the altar is tripped and laid bare, recalling the stripping of Our Saviour by the soldiers in fulfilment of the prophecy, "They divided my clothing among them, they cast lots for my robe." During the stripping, this antiphon is chanted with Psalm 21: "I am a worm, not a man, abused by everyone, scorned by the people."

At the Altar of Repose we may visit the Lord during the night as he prays at the garden of Gethsemane.Gethsemane, mindful of his pleading, "Could you not watch with me one brief hour?"
In the dark and silent Cathedral, this oasis of light and beauty is a powerful symbol of the beauty of the gift of the Eucharist, enlightening our world.
Watching continues until midnight; many people remain all night. Others pay a short visit; many following the custom of visiting seven Churches this evening to pray with the Lord. oooooooooooo


Anonymous said...

Why does H.E. not wear a dalmatic?

Anonymous said...

"Watching continues until midnight; many people remain all night. Others pay a short visit; many following the custom of visiting seven Churches this evening to pray with the Lord."

I have never heard of this custom of visiting seven churches during the night watch of Holy Thursday. From where did the custom originate?

I laughed out loud when I read the quip by the Pensioner to the Cardinal about washing the left foot next year.

Anonymous said...

"During the stripping, this antiphon is chanted with Psalm 21: "I am a worm, not a man, abused by everyone, scorned by the people."

Shouldn't the stripping be done "without ceremony", whioch presumably means without psalmody as well?

Mark Langham said...

I can't answer why the Cardinal does not wear a dalmatic; I imagine it is his preference.

I'm not sure where the custom of the seven churches orginated - some other readers may know. My mother told me that she did it as a child in Ireland, and when I was student in Rome the custom was certainly still going strong.

Mary Jane said...

Many thanks to you for all these wonderful photos of Holy Week at the Cathedral. To a choir director working in a small suburban/rural parish in northern Florida, these look like paradise itself (not that our own Cathedral in St. Augustine doesn't do its best).

Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

Maybe he doesn't wear a dalmatic, but I am glad to see he is washing the feet of 12 men, patriarchs indeed.
Coming from a part of the world where feet can be either sex, it is good to see Westminster Cathedral giving people the rites that they have right to have, the Liturgy of the Catholic Church.

Jude said...

Hey Fr. Mark--there are several different beliefs as to the origin of the tradition of visiting the seven churches on Holy Thursday. The one I tend to believe is that it probably originated in Rome where the early faithful visited the seven major basilicas as penance. I've read other things that suggest the practice originated in Poland, but, as to why, I know not. Maybe Fr. Dwayne could enlighted us about whether that's true...

Either way, it's a great practice, and I only wish I had the opportunity to visit seven churches as fantastic as the major basilicas. Either way, Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

Hey! I am from Pennsylvania in the USA. My grandmother always told my mother to visit the 7 churches on Holy Thursday, and in my area Pittston, people still do.


The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven major basilicas as penance. They are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence-outside-the-Walls, Saint Sebastian-outside-the-Walls, and Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem.

Pope Boniface VIII revived the pilgrimage tradition in 1300 with the establishment of the Jubilee Year, and Rome became a center for pilgrimages. The seven churches developed as particular sites for visits. The seven areas may also be related to the historical seven deacons of Rome, whose responsibility was to minister to the poor in their region of the city. The first seven deacons in the Church were the seven assistants ordained by the Apostles to minister to the poor.

The practice in the Diocese of Pittsburgh has continued to be strong, owing in part to the influence of the Holy Name Society whose members are instrumental in many of the local pilgrimages.

The Diocesan Holy Name Society produces a book of prayers used on the seven church visitations. A new collection of meditations and prayers for 2008 will be posted on the website, Participants usually do seven Stations of the Cross as part of each visit. In this year’s booklet, two prayers are provided for each of the seven stations.