Archbishop Wilton Gregory, celebrating a Holy Thursday Mass on April 9 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., commemorated Christ's institution of the Eucharist by calling it “a source of our unity and our hope.”

“Jesus brings us together around a common loaf and a single blessing cup,” Archbishop Gregory said. “A piece of broken bread becomes the great foundation of our unity … the Eucharist creates a bond that unites a fractured world. That is God's design, and indeed it is very good.”

Holy Thursday's Mass of the Lord's Supper honors Christ’s institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and federal and local shelter-at-home mandates, the Mass was livestreamed with no faithful in attendance at the cathedral.

“Eating and drinking around the altar of the Lord is an enduring gift,” Archbishop Gregory said. “During this abnormal time in the world, we feel the absence of this sacramental treasure more acutely.”

The archbishop also prayed for the time when we can “assemble and celebrate the Lord's gracious favor.”

During the liturgy, prayers were offered “for the sick and dying, especially all those suffering from the coronavirus,”and “for all who have died, that they may awake and arise in the light of Christ.”

Archbishop Wilton Gregory processes into St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C., at the beginning of the April 9 Holy Thursday Mass. Due to government mandates to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, public Masses are not being held in the Archdiocese of Washington, so there was no congregation in the cathedral. More than 2,500 people from across the archdiocese and from different states and from other countries viewed the Mass as it was livestreamed. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

The readings for the Mass included the story of the Passover in which the Israelites were brought out of bondage in Egypt, Jesus's institution of the Eucharist, and Jesus washing the feet of His apostles.

Calling Jesus “a loving, gentle, forgiving and merciful Messiah,” Archbishop Gregory said Christ washed the feet of His apostles “so we can learn how to treat one another.”

Traditionally, the main celebrant at the Holy Thursday Mass would wash the feet of 12 members of the congregation in memory of Jesus's act of love and service. Due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and the strict social distancing measures that are in effect, the Holy Thursday Mass was changed this year by omitting the washing of the feet. Also omitted was the transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose at the end of that Mass.

Recalling the Gospel account of how the devil persuaded Judas to betray Jesus, Archbishop Gregory noted that “we thus begin the most sacred time of the Church year with an acknowledgement that the evil one was once again playing a crucial role in God's plan unfolding.”

“The evil one never seems to rest. He tries to get us to believe that God has gotten it all wrong from creation to redemption … that God has made one mistake after another,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Now, during these next few days the Church celebrates the truth that God got it right all along. You and I are not mistakes, and God's plans are the correct ones.”

In his homily at the April 9 Holy Thursday Mass, Archbishop Gregory said that while public Masses are not being held due to precautions against the spread of the coronavirus, Catholics “feel the absence of this sacramental treasure (the Eucharist) more acutely,” and he prayed for the time when the faithful can assemble together again. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Holy Thursday marks the end of Lent and begins the sacred Triduum – the holiest three days in the Church calendar. It culminates with the joyful celebration of Easter, which this year is Sunday, April 12. Since the days are counted as the Jews count their days – from sundown to sundown – the Triduum began at dusk on Holy Thursday, includes Good Friday (April 10) and will conclude at dusk on Easter Sunday (April 12).

With the conclusion of the Holy Thursday Mass, no Masses will be celebrated until the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 11. A liturgical service will held to commemorate Good Friday. 

The remainder of Archbishop Gregory's live streamed Triduum celebrations is as follows: Good Friday liturgical service April 10 at 1 p.m.; Mass for the Easter Vigil April 11 at 8 p.m.; and Easter Sunday Mass of the Resurrection of Our Lord April 12 at 10 a.m.

All celebrations will be held at St. Matthew's Cathedral. The events are closed to the public, but will be live streamed on the Archdiocese of Washington’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/adw.org/) and on its YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/washarchdiocese).