On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Last Supper Jesus had with His Apostles. During the Mass, when the distribution of Holy Communion is finished, the priest does not place the remaining consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle. Instead, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to a temporary tabernacle, called “Altar of Repose”. After a short, silent prayer, the priest and deacon with altar servers go to the sacristy. There is no usual final blessing or the dismissal: “the Mass is ended…”. The Last Supper Mass does not end here. It continues through the Passion of Our Lord and the silence of the tomb, until the Easter Vigil when, at the end, we have the blessing and a joyful dismissal: “Go in the peace of Christ, Alleluia, Alleluia”.
Before the pandemic, our church remained opened during the night for individuals and families who wished to pray for one hour. This is a popular Catholic tradition of adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday. It is often called the “Night Watch” or “Gethsemane Watch” and recalls how Jesus invited His apostles to stay with Him while He prayed. Some people reflect about Jesus being arrested and spending that night in a dungeon.
We are invited to accompany Jesus to the Gethsemane Garden and His imprisonment in the dungeon. We are asked to console Him during His great agony. During our Gethsemane Watch, while praying, we simply imagine those scenes and enter into the sacred night before Jesus’ death on the cross. It is extremely powerful to imagine being there with Jesus, watching the sweat of blood drip down His face as He prepares to sacrifice Himself for our sins.
This year at St. Agnes on Holy Thursday, there will be an opportunity for us to keep vigil with Jesus through the night until 7 am Friday morning. There will be a sign-up sheet at the back of the church. In practice, you are invited to talk to Jesus about your life. You may pray the Rosary, read the Passion of the Lord from the Bible, and meditate on the Stations of the Cross using your prayer book.
You may also, in a sense, do nothing, and this is fine too. St. John Vianney once described a man who always came to spend a long time with the Blessed Sacrament. When St. Vianney asked him what he said to Jesus during those visits, he replied: “I say nothing to Him, I look at Him and He looks at me!” We call that adoration. And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?” (Mark 14: 37). It is a challenge that comes straight from Jesus and is a powerful way to begin the remembrance of the Paschal Mystery of our salvation. Will we take up the challenge of our Lord?