Tonight's Mass of the Lord's Supper marks the beginning of the Triduum, the three most sacred days in the Catholic church's liturgical calendar.
Holy Thursday has also been called "Maundy" Thursday, probably from an English derivative of the Latin phrase mandatum, or command - for the new command that Jesus gives in John's gospel to Love one another and to serve others, shown best by his example of washing the feet of his disciples.
A tradition at Holy Cross has been for the RCIA candidates to have their feet washed at the mass, which begins with the reception of the three Holy Oils blessed by the bishop and priests at the Chrism mass earlier in the week. The Oil of the Sick, the Sacred Chrism and the Oil of Catechumens will be received and placed in the ambry, ready for their first use at the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening.
Since the mass commemorates the Last Supper, Holy Thursday has also been seen as Jesus' institution of the priesthood.
Tonight's mass will mark the our return to the distribution of communion under both species, the cups having been eliminated during the scares of the swine flu season. At the conclusion of mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be removed from the church and processed to a chapel of reservation in the St. Michael Media Room in the school. This temporary chapel will be open for prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until 11 PM which concludes the evening with night prayer.
The sight of the empty tabernacle in the church is always a stark sight.