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Holy Week: Bishop Deeley Celebrates Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in Portland

“It is not history which gathers us together in these holy days. It is grace.”—Bishop Deeley

PORTLAND---“How blessed we are this holy night.”

Bishop Robert Deeley marked the beginning of the Easter Triduum on Thursday evening, April 1, with Holy Thursday Mass of Our Lord’s Supper at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland (additional pictures below). The Easter Triduum (Mass of Our Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, Celebration of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Good Friday, and the Resurrection on Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday) are the holiest days of the year for Christians and celebrate the forgiveness of all sins for humanity and the gift of everlasting life to all believers.

Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples and is a celebration of Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, his true body and blood, and the gift of the Mass to the Church.

“The disciples had come together with the Lord to celebrate the Passover,” said Bishop Deeley during his homily. “Remember, the meal, the gathering of that feast, is the reminder that God was always to be with his people. For us, as Christians, the Mass is our Passover. It is there that Jesus truly leads us to new life. Through the Eucharist, he remains with us always and always offers himself for us because he loves us. The Lord Jesus is always there for us, through the Eucharist, and through the community of the Church formed by the Eucharist.”

Bishop Deeley told the assembly as well as a large number of participants viewing via livestream that what is truly humbling about the story of the Last Supper is that we know that Jesus knew he had been betrayed. 

“He knew that he would be subjected to a trial, he would be condemned, beaten, and treated like a common slave as he was subjected to the Cross,” said the bishop. “In the scene described by Paul, Jesus still gives himself to the disciples and, in these same events, he promises to make himself present in the bread broken and in the wine poured out whenever these events are remembered, including our gathering at Mass. Jesus, despite all that would happen to him, embraced the sacrifice he was about to make, and gave himself willingly for the salvation of the disciples and for us.”

Holy Thursday also serves as a time to reflect on how Jesus shows the disciples how he wants them to live, humbly washing their feet before telling them “as I have done for you, you should also do.” The traditional washing of the feet at Holy Thursday Masses in the Diocese of Portland was omitted this year due to the pandemic.

“It is perhaps all the more important in this pandemic year that we focus on the message of the washing of the feet,” the bishop said. “I say that because Jesus’ gesture in this action points the way for Christian life, for the way in which we are all called to live that life. It shows us that love, as Jesus lives it, is active and involves sacrifice. And should we miss the lesson, he will show it to us again on Good Friday, when he makes no effort to avoid the Cross. For the most part, he even remains silent before those who question him. He freely suffers through his Passion and death.”

In the Gospel of John, the bishop added, he actually ties the washing of the feet with the Holy Eucharist.

“We try to act towards those with whom we share the world as Jesus acted towards us, by being his faithful witnesses and serving others, even when it involves a sacrifice on our part. We celebrate Eucharist and, as we remember what Jesus did for us at the Last Supper, he is present with us once again. He comes into our lives out of his love for us, and he sends us forth, filled with his love, to do for each other what he has done for us.”

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is the last Mass that will be celebrated before the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 3. During the Mass on Thursday evening, additional hosts were consecrated for use during Good Friday services. After communion, the bishop incensed the Blessed Sacrament on the altar and then carried the ciborium, covered in a white humeral veil, into the adjoining chapel where it was placed in the tabernacle. The main tabernacle in the cathedral will remain empty until the Easter Vigil. The altar in the cathedral was also stripped and left bare.

These three holy days give each of us an opportunity to focus on the distinct yet connected parts of Jesus’ saving mission.

“We actually share in the mystery of these events. We are not just there with Jesus. We ourselves are transformed by our celebrations,” said the bishop. “As we journey to Calvary tomorrow, we are shown how to deal with the crosses in our lives and we are saved. Finally, we will find the reason for our hope in Easter. God’s grace will truly work within us to draw us into his love and make us his people. No, it is not history which gathers us together in these holy days. It is grace.”

The bishop will preside at the Celebration of Our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday at 7 p.m., the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday at 8 p.m., and the celebration of the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday at 10 a.m. All are welcome at the celebrations which will be held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and also livestreamed.

A special Holy Week section is available on the Diocese of Portland website that includes Mass times and locations at all Maine parishes, listings of parish events, daily prayers and reflections, and many other resources. In addition, stories from many Masses and services, messages, and other resources throughout Holy Week will be posted on the diocesan website, the diocesan Facebook page, the diocesan Twitter page, the diocesan Instagram page, myParish App, and on Bishop Deeley’s personal social media pages on Twitter and Instagram.