After the Holy Thursday liturgy I usually remain in the pew until the doors are being locked and someone chases me out. So it was on my first Holy Thursday in 1996 (before my reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil) that I experienced something I had not expected and that I have never forgotten. What follows is a re-telling of the events of that night in the form of a post originally written in 2019 and edited in 2020. I’m posting it here again for this Holy Thursday 2021.
After the Holy Thursday liturgy a few people stayed in the pews to watch with Him. Fr. — had stripped the altar, had set up the tabernacle, palm fronds around it in the dimly lit, darkened nave. Hushed voices became softer and softer until they fell silent as the last stragglers left, leaving just three of us there. In the tabernacle the Lord was preparing to face the ordeal of ordeals. In the pews were His three disciples, fighting to stay awake, nodding off, not understanding what was taking place then, having no idea what would be taking place in a matter of hours.
I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to take in everything, everything I saw or heard or felt. I wanted to hold onto it, to remember. I heard snores behind me and grew more determined to remain awake and to watch.
At nearly midnight, the priest entered the sanctuary with two altar servers, one on either side of him, holding long-handled candle lighters which, in the dimlit darkness, looked exactly like spears. They’ve come to arrest Him!
I watched, unable to stop them. I looked around to see if anyone else saw what I did, but they were sound asleep. I was alone, beholding the unfolding scene.
The altar servers stood holding their spear-candlelighters while the priest stepped forward and bent down to open the tabernacle door and lifted the Lord from His place of repose. Then he walked slowly away, the two trailing behind with their spears. They left through the sacristy door. The tabernacle door was left open, exposing the emptiness within. All was silent—except for the snores behind me. I wanted to turn and shake them awake. They arrested Him! They took Him away! Did you not see? Why didn’t you help me? Why didn’t we stop them, why didn’t we help Him? Ah, Satan, get behind me. “Christ was obedient unto death.” And so must we all be.
I’ve been Catholic now for [twenty-five years!] and all I can say is thanks be to God and praise to You, Lord! Please keep us safe and well so we may continue to praise You. Help us to become more and more configured to Christ, our Lord. Have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen!
I leave you with this video from Dana and Fr. Scallon, the opening of their heartbreakingly beautiful meditation on the Stations of the Cross.
Thanks for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, may the Lord bless and keep you and yours safe and well, and may this Holy Week and Triduum be channels of divine grace, helping you to become who you were meant to be: a SAINT. Peace be with you. Always. +JMJ+
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