Years ago, our family tradition for Holy Thursday took shape. We adapted a Lenten Tea into a meal where each dish is symbolic and has a Scripture quote accompanying it. The kids help set the table with white and purple linens. I stack a pyramid of green olives for the “mount of olives,” and we have Hershey’s kisses for “Judas’s kiss.” There are garden greens, unleavened bread, olive oil, “silver pieces,” and my family’s two favorites: wings (representing “the cock crows”) and a fluffy white fruit dip which we call “clouds of glory.” We pray and take turns reading the Scripture cards on the table, but that’s about as formal as my family gets. While I enjoy our simple, kid-friendly festivities, I also look forward to the elaborately beautiful liturgies of these sacred days.
Normally, churches are packed for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the solemn celebration that begins the Triduum. The rituals of this night make present the Last Supper, reenact the washing of the feet, and invite us to journey with Jesus and his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. My personal favorite is the procession with Jesus, held high in a golden monstrance, to the altar of repose, where shoulder to shoulder adorers will hold vigil. This year will be so different. Masses will be celebrated in empty churches, and the faithful will be unable to receive the Eucharist.
So we gather. Not in our usual places of worship, but we gather in our living rooms and around our dinner tables. We pray. We break bread. We snuggle. We laugh. We observe silence. We believe. We believe in a God who is love, who made us for love. For relationship. For intimacy. Two thousand years ago, when he gave his body and blood to the Church, he instituted the sacrament of intimacy between God and man. God-made-flesh allows himself to be consumed because he desires total union with us! In these times, when we cannot approach the altar to receive him physically, he still invites us to real intimacy and communion—the God-man abiding in us—coming to fill even the places we like to keep hidden.
Over 700 years ago, Jesus revealed to St. Gertrude that when a sincere soul communes spiritually because she desires the Eucharist but (for whatever reason) cannot receive it, she is given “an immense treasure of pure gold.” This treasure of God’s real presence is always available! As we contemplate the gift of the Eucharist, let our desire for communion with our Lord open us up to the immeasurable graces he never ceases to give.
Sweet Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us your body and blood. Since I cannot receive you sacramentally, come spiritually into my heart. Transform me and equip me to be your living presence to my husband and children. I want to be intimately and totally united to you. Hasten the day that we are again gathered to worship at your altar, and until then, may our hearts and homes be filled with your presence. Amen.