March 29, 2018


The Basilian Fathers and the Parishioners of St. Nicholas Parish in Winnipeg were the hosts of this year's traditional hierarchical Holy Thursday Divine Liturgy and foot-washing ceremony. The Archbishop of Winnipeg, Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak, OSBM, presided over both events to which all the faithful, religious and clergy of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg are invited. This year, just over two dozen members of the clergy were in attendance as well as a good number of women religious and lay faithful. Sr. Ruth Aney, SSMI led a choir of singers that had come together from a number of parishes. The morning turned into a truly inspiring and faith-reaffirming experience as well as an act of unity among the faithful of the archeparchy with their bishop and spiritual leaders.

The two principal concelebrating priests were or course, the two "provincial" (i.e. national) superiors of the largest monastic/religious orders that are based in Winnipeg. Fr. Gabriel Haber, OSBM of the Basilian Fathers and Fr. Larry Kondra, CSsR - the national superior of the Redemptorist Fathers. The other clergy concelebrated around the Altar, although a couple chose to remain among the other Faithful in attendance.

The Divine Liturgy began at 10:00 AM as planned, but with the special spirit that pervaded the church, soon all concern for time was forgotten. The main points being celebrated that day was Christ's institution of those awesome gifts and mysteries - the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist at the "last supper" that truly Holy Thursday two millennia ago in that upper room in Jerusalem. As Christ gathered with his Apostles and broke the bread and gave it to them and the wine after supper he commanded them to keep on doing "this in memory of me". The local successor to the Apostles, His Grace Metropolitan Lawrence, also gathered with his priests and renewed the same sacrifice. Just as at the last supper, when Jesus gave the bread and wine to his disciples, he made it undoubtedly clear about the nature of the miraculous and self-sacrificial act that was taking place when He said, "this is my body"... "this is my blood"! In fact, one of the two most moving moments of the Divine Liturgy was when His Grace personally placed the particle of the Body of Christ into the hand of each of the members of the clergy serving with him at the 'holy Table'.

The Holy Thursday services were also done in a spirit of true fraternity and fellowship. The other very moving and inspiring moments at the Divine Liturgy was when each member of the clergy was greeted with a "kiss of peace" by the Metropolitan and then they each went on to greet each and every other brother priest and deacon in the sanctuary with that same fraternal and heartfelt kiss of peace and usually adding a few words of encouragement and well-wishes for a great Passion Week and wonderful Easter. [Romans 16:16]

The traditional washing of feet ceremony is always an inspiring moment. The message from the time that Christ first performed the dramatic "lesson" at the last supper has remained no less poignant to this very day. Christ, who was Lord and Teacher to the Apostles, and to the many Disciples, wanted them to understand that they were to be servants of all, just as He showed Himself to be throughout His ministry. The Metropolitan, removing his elaborate outer vestments, girding himself with a towel and kneeling at the feet of each of the twelve designated priests is not a sight anyone sees every day... it leaves a lasting impression on the clergy and faithful alike. As is the custom, the parish priest of the host parish takes the role of St. Peter in the dramatic, interactive reading of the Gospel account. Fr. Zachary Shwaluk, OSBM, served that role reading about the objections of ever impulsive Peter until he agreed to submit to the Will of Christ.

As is also the custom, the host parish also provides a lunch, at least for the clergy and religious as they have a full day ahead of them preparing for the Passion Week services and, especially, the Matins service and the reading of the 12 Gospel accounts of the Passion of the Christ later that same day. Well, no one expected the exquisite meal provided by David and Shirley Shwaluk from the city of Brandon. Oh, the meal was Lenten (pisney, пісний), but amazingly fresh and so delicious! The good ladies of St. Nicholas helped serve the meal. When Metropolitan expressed thanks to the cooks and servers they rightfully received a long, heartfelt applause from the attendees.

After enjoying the meal and opportunity for fellowship that it provided, the clergy, religious and the family members that were able to join them... said their farewells and made their way to the parishes that they serve. They will be deeply involved with experiencing with their parish families the great adventure and mystery that is Holy Week and Easter. God willing, they will meet again soon after the Resurrection to continue serving the mission that Christ entrusted to them...

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." [Mt 28:19-20]

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