Painting: The Eucharistic Transitus, or holy death, of Saint Benedict, in which Mother Mectilde de Bar recognized a “breathing forth” of the charism entrusted to her. According to tradition, Saint Benedict passed from this life on a Thursday.
Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Thursday
Six days after the memorable events of 12 March 1654, Dom Placide Roussel gave permission for exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament every Thursday. Thursday thus became a weekly rememoration of that first Holy Thursday when, in the Cenacle, Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist, offering Himself to the Father, and nourishing His Apostles with the life-giving mysteries of His Body and Blood.
Response to an Inquiring Reader
One diligent reader of Vultus Christi, in reading my translation of Mother Mectilde’s text on The Solemnity of Thursday (from La journée religieuse) questioned Mother Mectilde’s affirmation that Thursday is a day of Pascha. How are we to understand this affirmation of Mother Mectilde, which, at first, seems surprising to those who think more in chronological than in theological terms? Mother Mectilde’s affirmation is rooted in an profoundly intuitive experience of the liturgy of Holy Thursday. The Introit of the Mass on Holy Thursday is a synthesis of the entire Paschal Mystery. What does the Church sing on the threshold of the Sacred Paschal Triduum?
It is for us to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection:
through whom we have been saved and set free. (cf. Gal 6:14)
The Sacred Paschal Triduum
The liturgy of the Church does not wait until Easter Sunday to sing of “salvation, life, and resurrection.” It is the whole Paschal Triduum, beginning with the Evening Mass In Coena Domini on Thursday that actualizes the mysteries of Our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Holy Thursday includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, and these days include within themselves the mystery already announced, and realized, and communicated in the Cenacle on Thursday in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
I rather suspect that the reader who questioned Mother Mectilde’s affirmation that Thursday is a day of Pascha may be French! The dear French, with their gift of clear thinking and of making fine distinctions, are often rigidly fixated on an “either/or” perception of things, and intellectually challenged by the inclusive “both/and”. This, at least, has been my experience in over forty years of exposure to, and participation in the richness of French culture and French theologizing. It is not, then, a question, of Thursday or Sunday, but of Thursday and Sunday: Thursday contains, as in a kernel, the complete mystery that unfolds over Friday and Saturday, to emerge into a glorious light on Sunday.
Kairos and Chronos
Mother Mectilde’s affirmation springs from her own contemplative participation in the liturgy of the Church, and from her intuitive grasp that the liturgy is played out in kairos — God’s moment, the liturgical hodie — rather than in chronos, the human way of measuring time.
The Mystery of the Cross
Mother Mectilde focused on Thursday, and established it in her Institute as a kind of weekly Fête-Dieu, because she understood that the Most Holy Eucharist is the sacramental demonstration of the Cross. Is this not what the Apostle teaches? “For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show forth the death of the Lord, until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).
The Most Holy Eucharist makes present the Cross as the altar of Christ, Eternal High Priest and spotless Victim. The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is the sacrifice of the Cross set before the eyes of faith, not as something dim and ineffectual, but as an astonishing inbreaking, here and now, of “the power of God and the wisdom of God”(1 Cor 1:24). This is, to borrow the expression of Saint John Paul II, the source of Mother Mectilde’s “Eucharistic amazement.” This is this realization that leaves us, together with her and with the saints of every age, as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, “lost, all lost in wonder.”