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Holy Thursday Altar of Repose


The first hints of a new theme quickly becomes obvious: an anticipation of suffering and death. The altar table, symbolic of Christ, is stripped in silence.


At times in the past, this action was considered symbolic of the stripping of Jesus before his crucifixion. In early centuries, however, as is again the practice today, the altar table was stripped without ceremony after every Mass. This is an example of the many ancient liturgical customs preserved over the centuries during Holy Week and reinstated in the post-Vatican II liturgical reform. People begin leaving quietly for their homes. An atmosphere of sadness and reflection begins. Until recent times popular thinking considered these hours as a “wake” before the tomb, anticipating Good Friday. More properly, they are hours of “waiting” with Jesus as the saving events begin to unfold.


100_5252At the end of the Holy Thursday liturgy, consecrated communion bread is carried in procession with incense and songs to chapel of adoration. It will be received the next day in communion. After placing the consecrated bread in the tabernacle, an atmosphere of quiet waiting with the Lord begins. It is popular that parishioners spend a holy hour sometime before midnight in the adoration chapel.