Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Pes'ho/Maundy Thursday, Feet-washing, Last Supper, Agony in Gethsemane
Volume 7 No. 409 April 11, 2017
We are into the fulcrum of the church liturgical year with the Holy Thursday (Pessaha or Pes'ho), Good Friday, Gospel Saturday and Easter Sunday. These are called Triduum. ("Triduum" comes from two Latin words - tres and dies - that mean "a space of three days.")

Now you may be confused - Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday - isn't that 4 days instead of three? If you recall, traditionally we went to Pessaha service early morning on Thursday and the Easter Service is on Saturday midnight/Sunday early morning. The Jews count the day beginning with the sundown. So, if you count the 24 hour cycle, starting at about 4 AM Thursday, till 4 AM Easter Sunday morning, we will have only 3, 24 hour days in the triduum.

Actually it is not that important to understand how the 4 days became 3 days. (Think of it as a mystery!) What is important is to recognize that this is the holiest days of the church liturgical year. We had been preparing for the events in these days for the last 45 days fasting upto this point. During the Triduum we celebrate the core mystery of our Christian faith: we ritualize Jesus' transition from life to death to risen life, and our own participation in that timeless mystery. We experience the story of redemption of mankind unveiled right in front of our eyes.

When we hear of Holy Thursday, the first thing that comes into our mind is the qurbano. On further meditation, we will recall the Last supper and and Passover. But several other events happened on Holy Thursday that have great influence on our lives. Let us take a quick look.

1. First, Pessaha celebrates the Passover. We all know the Last Supper. Many Christian homes in Kerala have a copy of Michael Angelo's famous painting of the last supper hanging on the entrance wall. On this day Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist or Holy Qurbana, the Queen of Sacraments. By instituting the Eucharist, Jesus also appointed the disciples as priests, thus starting the New Testament Priesthood, with Jesus as the High Priest.

2. Before serving supper, Jesus went out and washed the feet of the disciples. We call it foot-washing. Our bishops reenact this ceremony typically on Thursday evening in Holy week. By washing the feet of the disciples, something traditionally done by the lowliest of the servants - a slave, Jesus instituted "servant discipleship." He told the disciples that, in the new Kingdom, whoever want to be the leader must serve. Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

3. Jesus also gave a new commandment. We, as His disciples, are commanded to love each other as Jesus loved His disciples and us.

4. After the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus and the 11 disciples left for the Garden of Gethsemane where he experienced anguish and agony. He asked the disciples to stay awake while he went to pray. The disciples fell asleep. This was the hour of abandonment for Jesus. He felt alone and then, in the middle of the night, he was betrayed and arrested. Then Jesus began the painful journey to Calvary as Good Friday begins.

I saw a short article entitled 'A Guide To Understanding Holy Week' that described the importance of Triduum beautifully:

During the Triduum we celebrate the core mystery of our Christian faith: we ritualize Jesus' transition from life to death to risen life, and our own participation in that timeless mystery.

It is so easy this time of year to celebrate these days as a historical commemoration. But we are doing for more than recalling historical facts. What Jesus did for us has consequences for all people at all times. His life, death, and resurrection happened to him, but they also happen to all of us who claim to be his followers. These days, then, are a reminder and celebration of who we ourselves are and what our own lives are about.

As we celebrate the mystery of Jesus' passing, we actually celebrate the same passing over in our own lives. Jesus' self-sacrifice opened the way for us to share in new life. But this does require our own cooperation in God's divine plan of salvation. We must pass over our lives into God's hands and imitate the self-giving of God's Son. This is the way to life. "It is the Passover of the lord".

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World


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