Posted by Normita
April 1, 2010
This is a continuing reflections of the celebrations leading to Easter Sunday, as practiced in my hometown. Holy Thursday is the most awaited day for most local folks to see the colorful procession of the Cordero (Lamb of God), as described below.
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates both the institution by Christ Himself of the Eucharist and of the institution of the sacerdotal priesthood (as distinct from the “priesthood of all believers”) for in this, His last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover, He is the self-offered Passover Victim, and every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice, by Christ’s authority and command, in exactly the same way. The Last Supper was also Christ’s farewell to His assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny Him before the sun rose again.
On Holy Thursday morning there is a special Mass in Cathedral Churches, celebrated by the bishop and as many priests of the diocese as can attend, because it is a solemn observance of Christ’s institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper. At this “Chrism Mass” the bishop also blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the sick or dying. The bishop may wash the feet of twelve of the priests, to symbolize Christ’s washing the feet of His Apostles, the first priests.
The evening Holy Thursday Liturgy, marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred “Triduum” (“three days”) of Holy Week, which culminates in the Easter Vigil, and concludes at Vespers on the evening of Easter day (see Paschalis Sollemnitatis, §§ 38-40). The Mass begins in the evening, because Passover began at sundown; it commemorates Our Lord’s institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. It also shows both the worth God ascribes to the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water (a symbol of baptism) in the Mandatum, washing, commemorating Jesus’ washing the feet of His apostles, as well as in the priest’s stripping and washing of the altar. Cleansing, in fact, gave this day of Holy Week the name Maundy Thursday.
The action of the Church on this night also witnesses to the Church’s esteem for Christ’s Body present in the consecrated Host in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, carried in solemn procession to the flower-bedecked Altar of Repose, where it will remain “entombed” until the communion service on Good Friday. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.
And finally, there is the continued Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the people during the night, just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal by Judas.
There is such an abundance of symbolism in the solemn celebration of the events of Holy Thursday layer upon layer, in fact that we can no more than hint at it in these few words. For many centuries, the Last Supper of Our Lord has inspired great works of art and literature, such as the glorious stained glass window in Chartres cathedral (above), Leonardo’s ever popular (and much imitated) Last Supper in the 16th century; and a reminiscence called Holy Thursday, by the French novelist François Mauriac, written in the 1930s. (A chapter of Mauriac’s meditation was reprinted in Voices, Lent-Easter 2002, with permission from Sophia Institute Press).
Here in my hometown, Holy Thursday, as described above is practiced to the letter. In preparation for the Last Supper, a host prepares a feast to be shared by his guests, church organizations and community people. A procession is led by the host with a sculpted Lamb placed in a decorated carousel, carried by men who are close family and friends. This sculpted Lamb (called ‘Cordero’), is prepared with intensity and precision, cooked with eggs, potatoes, milk and bread. Here’s a description:
During Holy Week, on Maudy Thursday, the town of Morong (Rizal) hosts a “cordero procession” in mid-afternoon. The cordero (lamb) is shaped out of a mix of mashed potatoes and kamote (sweet potato). -At about 3 pm, the cordero is carried in a festive procession that starts from the home of the hermano to the church of Morong where the cordero is blessed. After the blessing, the priest cuts the head of the lamb, which is set aside, and the community shares and partake in a feast prepared by the hermano’s family. The cordero’s head is then brought by the hermano and his wife to the next year’s hermano.
Bob and I were hermano and hermana in 2004. We elected not to indulge in many gifty items, instead we donated a monstrance to the church, which is used in the Adoration Chapel. *A monstrance is the vessel used in the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches to display the consecrated Eucharistic Host, during Eucharistic adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.