I just loved Holy Thursday church ceremonies as a boy
Thursday is that pal with the ready smile and the steady advice. When you need it. Or no advice. When you need it.
He won’t smash the night right out of the park like Mr Saturday Night can, but neither will he have you tripping over bottle crates out back after they call the cops.
He’s not one to dog your Sunday slumbers, subliminally drip-feeding you lyrics for them old tired Monday Mornin’ Blues.
Tiresome Tuesday still has so far to go and wibbly wobbly Wednesday is neither here nor there. Then Thursday turns up and at last there is light. Hope. Possibilities.
Thursdays are for sitting back and sifting mellow through stuff done, stuff to do … just thinking.
Perhaps the ghost of a Catholic upbringing still flickers in some alcove deep in my Thursday’s past.
As a boy I just loved Holy Thursday evening in the church. Engrossed in the Holy Week drama which still had a long way to run.
Even the choir and organ sounded right. Celestial even, as the songs of praise resounded in the familiar rafters high above us.
Bodies scrunched in tight together on that polished wooden pew, inhaling that heady incense as it unchained the senses and fired the imagination.
The faint high-pitched child’s trill and furtive wisps of whispered conversations only emphasised the charged silence. The same soft light shadowed those passed and present as the candles flickered at the side altar in front of me and the mellow rumble of the priest narrated the story of Jesus and the Apostles and the Last Supper, the agony in the Garden and the rest.
The tension was building up to the betrayal we knew was coming from that first — and still the best — pantomime villain, Judas Iscariot. If that wasn’t intrigue enough, Jesus had also told his main man Peter he was going to deny him.
The story trailed off, to be continued in the morrow’s Good Friday episode.
High drama. Top-class script, set, costumes and atmosphere. And more to come.
Over in the corner pew with my friends I was only barely aware of their elbow-jabbing and sniggering as the old tale unfolded. Jesus and his men were having their last feast before the crucifixion and the monumental moments to come. The carrying of the cross through the jeering streets, the crowning with thorns, the piercing of feet … the crucifixion itself.
Christ has died.
But we also knew the stone would be rolled back on Sunday. Ta da! Christ has risen. Christ will come again. Brilliant stuff.
I don’t know if I ever believed it all but I sure was happy to be caught up in the story.
The words so familiar but alive for once: “On the night before he was betrayed Jesus took the bread, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, “Take this and eat it, this is my body and blood …..”
“Do this in memory of me ….”
The kneeling altar boy in white surplus and black soutane clanged the altar bells to announce Holy Communion. All those stunning girls we could barely talk to filing by with their covered, gorgeous heads bowed. Mostly feigning holy like we were. Especially with mom and dad watching. Trying to time our entry into the line, without falling over the kneeler as we joined the swell heading for communion.
Lent was almost over and it would be back to the Rolos and the Cadbury’s. A time of renewal. Renewal of the Taytos and Perri crisps more like it. And Easter eggs on Sunday. Yay!
Was it after Holy Communion they had the moving of the Blessed Sacrament from the golden tabernacle and the ceremonial procession through the church? Or before? Whichever, it was powerful, a kind of charged solemnity in the air as the cortege proceeded regally down the centre aisle.
The Eucharist would be brought back again for the Good Friday. The next day’s episode in the hit mini-series that would be repeated every year like It’s A Wonderful Life at Christmas.
The bells were silenced and the altar was laid bare for the grand finale on Easter Sunday.
Your classic drama follows a clear path: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. You won’t get it your drama more classic than the Easter week ceremonies: the rising action of Holy Thursday building up to the resurrection climax on Easter Sunday, winding down to the falling action as Jesus appears to all sorts of people before the ultimate denouement of his ascent into Heaven.
Where would Easter Sunday be without Holy Thursday? Where would we be without Thursday?
Good day, Thursday.