HOLY THURSDAY LITURGY: A POWERFUL EXPERIENCE IN UNITY
April 13, 2017
ANNUAL HOLY THURSDAY LITURGY TAKES PLACE AT ST BASIL PARISH CHURCH
His Grace, Most Reverend Lawrence Huculak, Archbishop of Winnipeg and Metropolitan for Canada, lead this year’s Holy Thursday services at St. Basil the Great Ukrainian Catholic Parish church.
The tradition is that on Holy Thursday, the Church commemorates the extraordinary events at the ‘Last Supper’ when Christ gathers His Apostles “on the night He was given over – or, rather, gave Himself for the life of the world”.* It is this evening that Jesus concludes His amazing teaching to the first leaders of the Church. The Priesthood is instituted and the awesome gift of the Holy Eucharist is instituted. The powerful lesson about spirit of humility that is to pervade all activity of the Church – especially among the leadership – that is given by the ‘washing of feet’ is re-enacted by the Bishop and the clergy.
By 10:00 am the Divine Liturgy was under way. The Liturgy of St Basil the Great – traditionally celebrated on this day together with vespers – is distinguished by its lengthy and very profound and all-encompassing anaphora (canon) prayers as well as the solemn unique melodies. Sr. Ruth Aney, SSMI had organized the singers of the parish and the choir was truly amazing in its performance of the responses. The parish clergy, Deacon Leon Twerdun and Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski served as the first Deacon and Concelebrant respectively. Nineteen priests and deacons were able to participate in the service. They were joined by seven women religious and a good number of lay-faithful that came from various parishes for this ancient, annual event.
Even though the temptation may be to read the lengthy St Basil anaphora prayers while the choir is singing other responses, as is often practiced, everyone appreciated Metropolitan’s decision to read the prayers aloud for all to hear and contemplate. “Unite all of us, who share this one bread and cup, with one another into the communion of the one Holy Spirit, and let none of us partake of the holy Body and Blood of Your Christ unto judgment or condemnation. Instead, may we find mercy and grace with all the saints, who have been well pleasing to You since time began…”, is one phrase of many that are richly filled with a theology that is both transcendent and practical. During the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Lawrence consecrated the “holy Myron” or Chrism oil that is later distributed around the parishes of the Archeparchy for use at the administration of the Holy Mystery (Sacrament) of Chrismation (Confirmation).
Following the Liturgy, there was yet the traditional ceremony of the washing of feet. Twelve members of the clergy, selected by the Metropolitan before the services, were seated across the soleas. The ceremony which consists of ektenias, stykhyra (verses) and readings from Sacred Scripture, serves as both an explanation of the significance of the washing of feet and a script for the “performance”. In fact, the parish priest plays the role of the Apostle Peter who at first balks at the suggestion of the master washing his feet, then acquiesces to the will of the Lord.
The ladies of the parish hosted a simple, Lenten and yet amazing lunch of lentil soup and sandwiches and other refreshments for the Metropolitan, the Sisters and the Clergy and some of their family members.
It was a beautiful service and a tangible encounter with God’s grace as we come to the close of the Lenten season and as we fast approach the “feast of feasts” – the Resurrection of our Lord. Together with all of this… it was also an extraordinary occasion of fellowship for the followers of Christ of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg.
* from the Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom