When it comes to Thursdays, it just doesn’t get more theological than Holy Thursday, marking the point in the week leading to Easter Sunday when most Christian faiths celebrate Christ’s Last Supper. (A notable exception being the Eastern Orthodox churches, which follow a slightly different ecclesiastical calendar — this year, celebrating Easter on April 15).
According to that go-to source for all things theological, Wikipedia, today is also known as Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, Thursday of Mysteries, and — perhaps most notably — Maundy Thursday. The Maundy is the ceremony of foot washing, practiced especially by Catholics on this day. In particular, priests wash the feet of candidates who will be joining the Catholic church at Easter Vigil — the night before Easter.
The Easter season is richer in theological significance and tradition for Christian denominations than even the Christmas season, and can be more meaningful without the distractions of winter holiday commercialization and holiday shopping. Maundy Thursday also marks the beginning of Triduum, “the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday…and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday… .”
Among local Catholic churches that follow the practice of foot washing (only for those who volunteer!) include St. Louis church on Main Street downtown, and among those churches advertising Triduum Masses include St. Ann’s in Polonia. Holy Thursday masses are generally held beginning at 7PM.
And because Holy Thursday evening has traditionally also served as a Good Friday vigil (i.e., night before), many churches are open late — as late at 10PM or even Midnight, for any and all who wish to visit. Especially notable are the churches of Polonia, open collectively for “One Night, Seven Churches,” promoted by Broadway Fillmore Alive.
The Polonia churches involved include Corpus Christi, which has been undergoing some outstanding restoration work in recent years, backed by an energetic group of boosters who hold outstanding fundraisers, such as an annual Luau. Among recent work undertaken is the restoration of the Disputata mural, the publication of an outstanding book about the stained glass windows of the church.
St. Louis church, one of the grandest in the Diocese, also has an open house till 10PM tonight. Located at the northern edge of downtown, and at a strategic crossroads between Allentown and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, St. Louis has been distinguished by its openness to the diverse community surrounding it. When Monsignor Robert Mack (Father Mack) and Monsinguer William Schwinger (Father Bill) passed away recently, tributes came in from sources as diverse as fellow priests,
former parishioners, and Buffalo News reporters Donn Esmonde and Charity Vogel.
The oldest parish in Buffalo, predating the Diocese of Buffalo, the church is located on land donated by one of the most prominent figures of early Buffalo, Louis Stephen Le Couteulx. Our own Steel wrote about his tour of the building in 2008 here and here. Since that time, much of the church’s extensive collection of archival material has been put on display in a lovely museum constructed in the parish hall in the church’s basement. The museum will be open during tonight’s open house, and the parish archivist, Michael Riester, will be on hand.
Happy Easter and Easter season!
Entry image: Orthodox icon of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles (16th century, Pskov school of iconography, via Wikipedia).