Morning Mass of the Chrism
Paul VI focussed the Mass of the Chrism strongly on the renewal of commitment to priestly service, possibly as a disciplinary measure in the 1960's. It is a highly clericalized liturgy, but it should not be only a clerical celebration. It should not separate the ordained from the rest of the baptized people of God. All should be represented: laity, catechumens, and the sick.
Two oils are consecrated for use in the baptisms at Easter: the oil of catechumens, and the oil of chrism. The oil of the sick is consecrated now as well. It is convenient that the bishop consecrates the oils at this Mass, as they are distributed to the parish priests, who are all assembled only on this occasion, once a year.
The person to be baptized is anointed on the breast with the oil of catechumens before he or she goes to the baptismal font.
After the baptism, the oil of chrism is used to mark the cross on the foreheads of the newly baptized. It symbolizes the anointing with the Holy Spirit of Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan. It is used also at confirmation and ordination.
Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper marks the end of Lent and is the day for reconciling penitents. This is celebrated by the singing of the Gloria, and the ringing of church bells. The penitents are readmitted to communion this evening so that they can participate in the Eucharist in the Easter Vigil.
It opens the celebration of the Passover of Jesus, using the images of servant and table companion (cum pane).
In the Triduum, it ties the events of the Last Supper to those of Good Friday. It connects the institution of the Eucharist with the sacrifice of Calvary. In Christian life, it looks both backwards to the cross, and forwards, to the final coming of Jesus Christ.
The first two readings stress the innovation (“institution”) of the Eucharist. Jesus gave a new meaning to an existing Jewish meal. The gospel stresses the establishment of Christian priesthood, both of the faithful (church as a whole) and of the ordained ministers. The command, “Do this”, is addressed to the whole Christian community. All three readings stress the commandment to love one another.
Washing of the Feet
Expresses both humility and love. When it is an acting out of Jesus at the Last Supper by the priest and twelve men, it is mainly an act of humble service, witnessed by the congregation. When the congregation are invited to participate, having their feet washed and washing the feet of one another, it is mainly an acting out of the new commandment, “Love one another.”
Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament
The Blessed Sacrament is transferred to a place of repose, out of sight of the main altar. It is
reserved for adoration until midnight and for administering communion on Good Friday.
Stripping of the Altar
The liturgy of Holy Thursday concludes with a dramatic stripping of the main altar, while Psalm 22 is recited or in total silence. It sets an atmosphere of desolation for Good Friday.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
All present are encouraged to spend at least an hour in prayer before the Eucharist as a preparation for the rest of the Triduum. It can be the hour immediately after the close of the liturgy, or the hours can be rostered until midnight.
At midnight, adoration is terminated and the Sacrament is removed from the place of repose and kept in seclusion until the distribution of communion on Good Friday, after which it is secluded until the Easter Vigil.