Clerical Articles

The Great and Holy Thursday

  • May 1, 2017

The Jewish Passover was to be celebrated on Friday. So it was the time that truth follow the prophecy, meaning that our lamb Easter, Christ was to be sacrificed. According to the holy fathers, the Lord celebrated the Jewish Passover with his disciples in advance, on Thursday evening. And at the Jews it is counted as a single day the Thursday evening and the whole day of Friday.

According to what was said by some of the Fathers, the Lord celebrated the Passover of the Old Law with his disciples. One of those who say this is saint John Chrysostom.

The disciples stood first with girded waist, with their footwear on, with their rods in hands, ready for travel. And they accomplished all the rules of the Law so that the Lord could not be considered as a breaker of the Law. Zebedee prepared everything for the Passover supper. Great Athanasios says, although others have a different opinion, that the one who carried the jug of water was Zebedee. Then showing to his disciples the highest commandments, Jesus taught them at the fall of the night the mystery of our Easter.

And when evening fell Jesus sat down at the table with the twelve disciples.

So you see that it was not the Jewish Passover, because it was a dinner with bread, drink and they sat down at the table and all the dishes had been cooked on fire. Before starting the supper according to saint Chrysostom, Jesus stood up,

So He got up from the supper, laid aside His outer garments, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that was around Him.

By doing this He wanted to make Judas be ashamed of himself and remind to the others that they should not seek primacies. After He washed their feet He urged them by saying : Anyone who wants to be the first must be the very last and the servant of all, giving Himself as an example. It seems that Jesus washed the feet of Judas before those of the other apostles. And at last came Peter. Because he had more love for Christ he did not let him wash his feet. But afterwards he wanted Him to wash not only his feet but also his hands and head.

Thus after he had washed their feet, showing by His humility an uncommon spiritual height, He put back his clad. Then he sat at the table and advised his disciples to love one another and never seek the primacies.

At the end of the meal He mentions the treachery. Jesus says quietly only to John:

‹‹He is the one who will take the bread when I give it to him.››.

The Savior said this in a whisper only to John because if Peter had heard it as one who was more ardent than the others would have killed Judas. And Matthews says:

‹‹ The one who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. ››.

And thus it happened. After a while taking the bread He said: ‹‹ Take and eat this is My Body›› and taking the cup said: ‹‹ Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins…Do this in my memory ››.

Although He did these, He ate and drank with them. We notice that the Lord calls his Body bread not azyme. Those who use azyme for the Holy Eucharist should be ashamed of that. After the supper Satan entered Judas. Before he just tried him but now he dwells in him. And the Holy Scripture says that he went and dealt with the hierarchs to sell Christ on thirty silver coins.

After the Last Supper He went with the disciples to the Mount of Olives in a place called Gethsemane. Jesus told them among others: ‹‹All of you will find me a stumblingblock to you this night››. And Peter said: ‹‹Even if all fall away, I never will. ›› It was dark, in the middle of the night. And Christ said to Peter: ‹‹Truly I tell you this very night before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times. ››

And indeed the rooster does not crow only once but twice or thrice to announce the day break. And it happened just as He said, because God showed the weakness of the human nature and Peter was overcome by a great fright.

For this reason the Lord entrusted the world to Peter, to be forgiving with the sinners once he knew himself how inclined is human nature towards sin. Peter’s threefold denial represents the sin of all the people before God. The first denial represents the commandment broken by Adam, the second the break of the Written Law and the third one the denial of the incarnation of the Word. The Savior forgave Peter’s denials later due to his threefold repentance after the question repeated for three times: ‹‹ Peter do you love me? ››

In the end Christ as a man tells His disciples : ‹‹My soul is very sorrowful even to death ›› Then He went a bit farther and prayed for three times:

‹‹ My Fatherif it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.››. He said these words as a man and in the same time in order to mislead the devil to make him think that he was only human, fearing that by His death on the Cross the mystery might have been thwarted.

When He returned to His disciples, He found them asleep. Going to Peter He told him:

‹‹So, could you not watch with me one hour?››, meaning in other words: ‹‹You are sleeping with the others when you said that you are ready to fight for me till death?››. Going then over the spring of the Cedars where it was a garden, He sat there with his disciples.

The Lord used to go there quite often. That is why Judas knew the place. Judas, taking some soldiers and being followed by the crowd came to Jesus. As a sign of recognition he told them he was going to kiss the Lord. Judas gave them this sign because many times when the Jews tried to catch Jesus, but He went away from them unseen. But this time Jesus went to them first and asked: Who are you looking for? And they did not recognize Him although the darkness of the night did not impede them at all, because the Gospel says that they had lit torches with them. They fell to the ground frightened and retreated a few steps. Then they came ahead again and Jesus asked them once more the same question. Judah kissed Him and Jesus said: My friend, what did you come for? In other words He told him: It is the right time for what you’ve come. Then He says again: ‹‹You came like for catching a thief with swords and clubs. ››

All these happened during night so that no popular revolt would have broken out. Then the ardent Peter took out a knife – and they had knives with them because they were after supper – cut the right ear of the servant of the archpriest. This gesture means that the archpriest did not obey the Law nor taught it properly. Jesus rebuke Peter saying that it is not good for a spiritual man to use a knife and He heals the ear of the servant. They caught Jesus, they took him tied up to the court of the archpriest Annas, who was the father in law of Caiaphas. There were gathered all those who were against Jesus, Pharisees and scholars. There it took place the dialogue between Peter and the maid and Peter’s denial. In the meantime the day broke and the rooster crowed for the third time. Peter remembered and cried bitterly. At daybreak they took Jesus from Annas to Caiaphas. There He was spat in the face and they brought false witnesses. When it was full day already Caiaphas sent Him to Pilates. And those who took Him there according to the Gospel ‹‹did not enter the Praetorium to avoid being defiled and unable to eat the Passover. ››

It results that the high priests and the Pharisees committed a break of the Law, according to saint John Chrysostom, moving the Passover because they were supposed to celebrate it during that night. But they postponed the Passover for killing Jesus. Christ showed before the Last Supper that they had to celebrate the Passover then. He ate the Passover of the Old Law during night then He revealed the new Easter. And as it was said the truth had to come after the prefiguration of the Law. Saint John the Evangelist says that all these took place on Thursday and on Thursday night before they celebrated the Passover. For this reason we commemorate on Thursday these frightening and inexpressible events

With Your great grace, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us! Amen.