Dom Gueranger on the Mass of Holy Thursday and the Stripping of the Altars

Last Supper – Valentin de Boulogne (1625–26)

The Church intends, on this day, to renew, in a most solemn manner, the mystery of the Last Supper: for our Lord Himself, on this occasion of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, said to His Apostles: Do this for a Commemoration of Me (St. Luke, xxii. 15). Let us, therefore, resume the Gospel narrative.

Jesus is in the Supper chamber, where the Paschal Lamb is to be eaten. All the Apostles are with Him; Judas is there, also, but His crime is not known to the rest. Jesus approaches the table, on which the Lamb is served. His Disciples stand around him. The ceremonies prescribed by God to Moses are religiously observed. At the beginning of the repast, Jesus speaks these words to His Apostles: With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you, before I suffer (St. Luke, xxii. 15). In saying this, He does not imply that the Pasch of this year is intrinsically better than those that have preceded it; but, that it is dearer to Him, inasmuch as it is to give rise to the institution of the new Pasch, which He has prepared for mankind, and which He is now going to give them as his last gift: for as St. John says, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end (St. John, xiii. 1).

[…]

The Mass of Maundy Thursday is one of the most solemn of the Year; and although the Feast of Corpus Christi is the day for the solemn honouring the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, still, the Church would have the anniversary of the Last Supper to be celebrated with all possible splendour. The colour of the vestments is white, as it is for Chrismas Day and Easter Sunday; the decorations of the Altar and Sanctuary all bespeak joy: and yet, there are several ceremonies during this Mass, which show that the holy Spouse of Christ has not forgotten the Passion of her Jesus, and that this joy is but transient. The Priest entones the Angelic Hymn, Glory be to God in the highest! and the Bells ring forth a joyous peal, which continues during the whole singing of the heavenly Canticle: but, from that moment, they remain silent, and their long silence produces, in every heart, a sentiment of holy mournfulness. But why does the Church deprive us, for so many hours, of the grand melody of these sweet bells, whose voices cheer us during the rest of the year? It is to show us, that this world lost all its melody and joy when its Saviour suffered and was crucified. Moreover, she would hereby remind us, how the Apostles, (who were the heralds of Christ, and are figured by the Bells, whose ringing summons the Faithful to the House of God,) fled from their Divine Master and left him a prey to His enemies.

The Holy Sacrifice continues as usual; but at the solemn moment of the Elevation of the Holy Host and the Chalice of Salvation, the Bell is silent, and, outside the Church, there is not given to the neighbourhood the usual signal of the descent of Jesus upon the Altar. When the time of the Holy Communion is near, the Priest does not give the Kiss of Peace to the Deacon, who, according to the Apostolic tradition, should transmit it, by the Subdeacon, to those that are about to communicate. Our thoughts turn to the traitor Judas, who, on this very day, profaned the sign of friendship by making it an instrument of death. It is out of detestation for this crime, that the Church omits, today, the sign of fraternal charity, it would too painfully remind us of sacrilegious hypocrisy.

Another rite, peculiar to today, is the Priest’s consecrating two Hosts during the Mass. One of these he receives in Communion; the other he reserves, and reverently places it in a Chalice, which he covers with a veil. The reason of this is, that, tomorrow, the Church suspends the daily Sacrifice. Such is the impression produced by the anniversary of our Saviour’s Death, that the Church dares not to renew, upon her Altars, the immolation which was then offered on Calvary: or rather, her renewal of it will be by the fixing all her thoughts on the terrible scene of that Friday Noon. The Host reserved from today’s Mass, will be her morrow’s participation. This rite is called the Mass of the Presanctified, because, in it, the Priest does not consecrate, but only receives the Host consecrated on the previous day. Formerly, as we shall explain more fully further on, the holy Sacrifice was not offered up on Holy Saturday, and yet the Mass of the Presanctified was not celebrated, as it was on the Friday.

[…]

The Stripping of the Altars

As soon as Vespers are over, the Celebrant returns to the Sanctuary, assisted by the Deacon and Subdeacon. He goes to the altar, and takes off the cloths and ornaments. This ceremony signifies the suspension of the Holy Sacrifice. The altar should be left in this denuded state, until the daily offering can again be presented to the Divine Majesty…. He is now in the hands of his enemies.. who are about to strip him of his garments, just as we strip the Altar. He is to be exposed naked to the insults of the rabble…

(Source: New Liturgical Movement)

Click here for Fr Z’s Maundy Thursday reflections

and here

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2 Responses to Dom Gueranger on the Mass of Holy Thursday and the Stripping of the Altars

  1. Pingback: Dom Gueranger on the Mass of Holy Thursday and the Stripping of the Altars – Zero Lift-Off

  2. Reblog by: Lawrence Morra III

    Zero Lift-Off Only The Beginning

    Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

    “Our thoughts turn to the traitor Judas, who, on this very day, profaned the sign of friendship by making it an instrument of death.”

    This line does strike me as a sharp reminder of the duality of us humans who often times break promises and vows of all kinds! Or lie when it’s to our advantage, so we may think at the time even saying, a little white lie won’t hurt anyone! Heinous betrayal such as this act by Judas is most egregious but people do it every day! Of course they don’t sentence Jesus Christ to crucifixion, or do they? Could it mean that Judas represented many of us; a piece of every one of us, because we all sold Jesus out being of this fallen nature and subject to the ways of the world and Satan’s influence; so aren’t we all responsible for His unimaginable suffering and pain unto a horrible languishing death?

    If three men go into a bank and rob it while a fourth man is outside watching from the getaway car isn’t he as guilty of bank robbery when they all get caught!

    We all owe everything to God Almighty, and we could never repay Sweet Jesus on that cross at Calvary for what He had to do, in order to follow the Father’s will; who offers each and every one of us to be Redeemed, making us sanctified and pure so that we can be in the presence of our Heavenly Father!

    “The Church omits, today, the sign of fraternal charity, it would too painfully remind us of sacrilegious hypocrisy.”

    As now the world and even our beloved Church is full of Hypocrisy as we have borne witness to politicians and Bergoglio joining hands in this hypocrisy, even with Islam who wants Christendom wiped off the face of the earth with Jews and all other religion too!

    Did crowds of people rush the captors of Jesus or riot and demand this Good Shepherd Jesus be set free or after his death; no not even the Apostles sacrificed themselves to stop what had to happen because even if they wanted to stop this injustice it wasn’t their place to do so, nor could they have overpowered the legions of soldiers if they tried; so it was futile just like humanity’s ever being freed from death and oblivion without the death of Jesus Christ! The whole world and its corrupt ways produced His crucifixion and handed Him over to Pilate whether as active participants or by default of all humans being fallen, and not being worthy to be in the presence and glory of Almighty God in His absolute perfection!

    Romans 3: 10-12, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

    11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

    12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

    It’s getting more obvious to me as I’m sure you as we grow older that we all come up short changed or even broke, if we depend on mere temporary earthly contentment’s or pleasures to fill us; virtually an impossible fool’s errand. But, with a caveat I say we should always try to make the best of what we have and be eternally grateful just for that, indeed our next breath is a miraculous gift; and then seek Him the Divine and Everlasting to satisfy our every dream and need in His kingdom to come! I’m sure I’ll see you there as long as I keep trying my best, that’s all He expects of any of us! Amen.

    Mark 12:30, Jesus tells us that our first responsibility is to Him, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This same theme is reiterated many places in the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:5, 13:3, 30:6; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27).

    So we must first and foremost ask ourselves are we willingly being deceived and led astray by the many temptations and the glitter of the fool’s gold or snares of this world?

    Or are we looking deeper into the heart of our simple existence here on earth to see the profound reality that much, much more is going on than meets the eye! The Holy Scriptures say “Seek” and you will find, (7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-12)

    You know the old adage of “get up, brush yourself off and get moving again.” This life is a proving ground, and we all go through trials and tribulations.

    Let’s reflect on this great parable Jesus gave to us!

    The Prodigal Son Parable in the book of Luke 15:11-32: 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.”

    Basically this younger son was so foolish and threw caution and reason to the wind wasting all that his father had given to him! Of course in time he realized what a fool he had been and that his father’s servants were better off, so thinking he should return to his father and admit his error perhaps his father would allow him to at least be kept as a servant, which would obviously be better than being a vagabond or beggar!

    On his journey back to his father, “still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

    Obviously this is to illustrate that our Heavenly Father who knows and understands all things holds out for us if we have run amuck or been led astray to awaken from our doing wrong because learning from a mistake and growing in wisdom is achieved if genuinely felt in the heart which to God is a most pleasing thing for any of us to achieve. as we are all fallen and none are worthy or righteous, and to rise above sin or transgression and be sincerely sorry is an act of courage and shows character!

    Remember how Jesus at Calvary told the condemned sinner and criminal on His right side as they were being crucified, “I say to you today, you will be in paradise with me!” A despot heathen criminal who in his final opportunity saw the light and truth and showed genuine sorrow and faith to Jesus our Father and that was something Jesus would not deny being rewarded; just as the prodigal son’s father saw in his son true remorse or repentance, and how it was a blessing that he came back into the light and fold or the family!

    But, in all of this the older brother who had followed his father’s ways and fallen into line all of his adult life was shaken by all this praise heaped upon the wayward younger brother! He was asked to join the celebration that ensued.

    “But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’’

    This is such great hope and encouragement for any of us to remember that the gate into heaven is narrow and the road to hell is wide; but, our heavenly Father who knows all things is full of mercy and love for us, so there is always hope even for the lowly criminal or worst sinner if he can see the error of his ways and repent turning his heart over to his Father in heaven! Our Lord Jesus Christ knows us, and when we stand before Him there will be no fooling Him, but there will also be no denying of His own. That is a promise He made to us! We should pray we are so worthy when we see Him!

    But, clearly the takeaway in all that I say here is that we are all lost and yet all found, because our Father in heaven knows us all better than anyone can and is always calling out to us watching from afar!

    Most important is that Jesus Christ promised that those who have faith in Him and abide in His living word that He will be with us to the end and forever! He is definitely with us and this is a “short ride;” so I often wonder how I wasted so much time! I really have to kick myself in the behind for that one; so much more I could have done better! But, the good news is there is, no better time than the present, today, right now; to make the biggest impact! It’s a collective building power of faith, which can get over any mountain and make the impossible possible! Amen to that.

    God bless you.
    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III

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