With the celebration of Mass on the evening of Holy Thursday ‘the Church begins the Easter Triduum, and recalls the Last Supper, in which the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, showing his love for those who were his own in the world, gave his body and blood under the species of bread and wine, offering to his Father and giving them to the Apostles so that they might partake of them; he commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to perpetuate this offering’.
Careful attention should be given to the mysteries which are commemorated in this Mass; the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and Christ’s command of brotherly love: the homily should explain these points.
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in the evening, at a time moreover that is convenient for the full participation of the whole local community. All priests may concelebrate, even if on this day they have already concelebrated the Chrism Mass or if, for the good of the faithful, they must celebrate another Mass.
Where pastoral considerations require it, the local Ordinary may permit another Mass to be celebrated in churches and oratories in the evening, and in the case of true necessity, even in the morning, but only for those faithful who cannot otherwise participate in the evening Mass. Care should nevertheless be taken to ensure that celebrations of this kind do not take place for the benefit of private persons or of small groups, and that they are not to the detriment of the main Mass. According to the ancient tradition of the Church all Masses without the participation of the people are on this day forbidden.
The tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration. Hosts for the Communion of the faithful should be consecrated during that celebration. A sufficient amount of bread should be consecrated to provide also for Communion on the following day.
For the reservation of Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation; that sobriety appropriate to the Liturgy of these days is enjoined, to the avoidance or suppression of all abuses. When the tabernacle is sited in a chapel separated from the central part of the church, it is appropriate to prepare there the place of repose and adoration.
During the singing of the hymn ‘Gloria in excelsis’ in accordance with local custom, the bells may be rung, and should thereafter remain silent until the ‘Gloria in excelsis’ of the Easter Vigil, unless the Conference of Bishops or the local Ordinary, for a suitable reason, has decided otherwise. During this same period the organ and other musical instruments may be used only for the purpose of supporting the singing.
The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came ‘not to be served, but to serve’. This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.
Gifts for the poor, especially those collected during Lent as the fruit of penance, may be presented as the offertory procession, while the people sing ‘Ubi caritas est vera’.
It is more appropriate that the Eucharist be borne directly from the altar by the deacons or acolytes, or extraordinary ministers at the moment of communion, for the sick and infirm who must communicate at home, so that in this way they may be more closely united to the celebrating Church.
After the postcommunion prayer, the procession forms, with the crossbearer at its head. The Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by lighted candles and incense, is carried through the church to the place of reservation, to the singing of the hymn ‘Pange lingua’ or some other eucharistic song. This rite of transfer of the Blessed Sacrament may not be carried out if the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion will not be celebrated in that same church on the following day.
The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance.
The place where the tabernacle or pyx is situated must not be made to resemble a tomb, and the expression ‘tomb’ is to be avoided: for the chapel of repose is not prepared so as to represent the ‘lord’s burial’ but for the custody of the eucharistic bread that will be distributed in communion on Good Friday.
The faithful should be encouraged after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament that has been solemnly reserved. Where appropriate this prolonged eucharistic adoration may be accompanied by the reading of some part of the Gospel of Saint John (ch. 13-17).
From midnight onwards, however, the adoration should be made without external solemnity, for the day of the Lord’s Passion has begun.
After Mass the altar should be stripped. It is fitting that any crosses in the church be covered with a red or purple veil, unless they have already been veiled on the Saturday before the fifth Sunday of Lent. Lamps should not be lit before the images of saints.
– Given at Rome, at the Offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship, 16 January 1988