On this day, Holy and Great Thursday, according to the order which our Holy Fathers inherited from the Holy Apostles, and the Holy Gospels, we celebrate four events: the Holy Washing of the Disciples' feet, the Mystical Supper (the institution of the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist, which we celebrate to this day), the Lord's Agony in the Garden, and His Betrayal.
On the morrow, Friday, the Passover sacrifice of the Hebrews was intended to take place, namely the slaughter of the lamb reared for this purpose. On that same Friday, the Truth was intended to follow the old type. For it was intended that the true Passover would be sacrificed, the Lamb of God the Father, who takes away the sin of the world - our Lord Jesus Christ, who was prefigured by the paschal lamb which was sacrificed each year by the Hebrews. On the evening of this day - which was the day of unleavened bread, the eve of the Passover of the Old Law, March 22, the fifth day of the week - Jesus observed the Passover and dined in the city with the Twelve Disciples. The Lord did this on the evening of the fifth day (Thursday), since among the Hebrews the "night-day" reckoning begins with the evening of the present day and is called the evening of the following day. In other words, according to Jewish tradition "Friday evening" was that time period that began after sundown on Thursday. (For example: as in the Orthodox Church today, the "liturgical evening" of a feast day would be that time after Vespers.) Zebedee (the father of the Holy Apostles James and John) prepared the Passover, since he was the one who carried the earthenware jar of water, as St. Athanasius the Great says and others also say exceptional things about Zebedee.
Afterwards, Jesus revealed more perfect and sublime teaching to His Disciples, and when night fully came, in the Upper Room He handed over the Mystery of our Passover. Thus, it is said that He reclined at supper with the Twelve. Notice that this was not the Passover of the Old Law, because He both reclined and gave a supper of bread and drink. Under the Old Law, the Jews stood, with girded loins and walking staffs in hand during the meal. There all things crumbled away through Fire, including the use of unleavened bread. Before He began to eat (thus says the divine Chrysostom), He rose from supper, laid aside His garments, and poured water into a basin in preparation for the Washing of the feet. He did these things both to shame Judas and to remind the other Disciples that it is not right to seek the first place. Similarly, after the washing, He exhorted them by saying that he who wishes to be first must be last of all, showing Himself as an example. It seems that Christ first of all washed Judas, who most presumptuously sat first in line, and last He came to Peter. Since Peter was more high-spirited than the others, he prevented the Teacher, but when at the same time he heard from the Lord that if Christ did not wash his feet he would have no part with the Lord, he yielded quite readily.
So our Lord Jesus Christ washed the feet of the Disciples and showed a paradoxical exaltation through humility. He took His garments again and leaned back and exhorted and entreated them that they love one another and not seek the first place. While they were eating, He brought up the main point concerning His Betrayal. Since the Disciples were confused about His saying, Jesus said quietly to John alone, "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it" (John 13:26). He spoke in this way because if Peter, being more high-spirited than the others, had known the truth, he would have taken it upon himself to strike a blow against Judas. Jesus said again, "He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me" (Matt. 26:23). When both these events had occurred, after a little silence He took the bread and said, "Take, eat; this is My Body" (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22), and likewise the Cup, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:27-28; Mark 14:24). "Do this in memory of Me" (Luke 22:19). He performed these deeds and ate and drank with them. Notice that He calls His Body bread - not unleavened bread. Sol let those who offer the unleavened sacrifice be ashamed. After Judas tasted the bread, Satan entered into him, because when he first tempted him he already ruled over him completely. Then he withdrew and proceeded to the High Priests, in order that he might hand Christ over to them for thirty pieces of silver.
After the Supper, the Lord went out with the Disciples to the Mount of Olives, to a certain place called Gethsemane. Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written, I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee" (Matt. 26:31-32; Mark 14:27).
Peter said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be."
Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times" (Mark 14:28-30). He said "before the cock crows twice," because customarily the cock crows not once but even two or three times, and accordingly it so happened. Immeasurable grief, signifying the weakness of human nature, overtook Peter because of this saying of the Lord. The Lord withdrew in order that this might take place - after He handed over the whole world to Himself - so that of Himself He might make known the fickleness of human nature and grant pardon to sinners.
Nevertheless, on a higher level, the threefold denial of Peter depicted the sins of all men against God. These are the following: first is the transgression of the commandment which God gave to Adam, second is the transgression of the written Law, and third is the rejection of the Gospel proclamation. But when Peter repented, the Lord healed his denial and said three times, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" (John 21:17). Thereafter, Jesus wished to show to the Disciples how fearful death is for all men, and He said, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." He went a little farther and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will but as You will" (Matt. 26:38-39). He said these things as a man in order to cleverly deceive the devil, so that he might think that Christ, although appearing as a man, feared death. He did this, while knowing the truth, so He might not forsake the Mystery of the Cross.
After this first prayer, the Lord returned to the Disciples and found them deep in sleep. Then the Lord addressed Peter and said, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:40-41). He said these things to Peter so that he would clearly understand that He meant, "You say that you wish to struggle until death, so you doze in this manner with the rest?" Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done." And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words (Matt. 26:42-44). Then an angel appeared to Him from Heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:43-44). Then He came to His Disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand" (Matt. 26:45-46). Then He went beyond the brook of Kidron, where there was a garden that He entered with His Disciples. The Lord regularly frequented the garden, and so Judas was well acquainted with the place. Judas then took some of the band of soldiers, with a crowd following, and came upon Jesus, giving them the signal of the false kiss. He arranged it in this way because many times when the Lord was seized He passed out of their midst unseen. Yet the Lord came forward and said to them, "Whom are you seeking?" (John 18:4,7). Since it was still night, they did not recognize Him. Therefore they looked upon Him with lighted lanterns and torches, and with fear they slowly withdrew. When they returned, He made all things known.
When Judas gave the signal, Christ said, "Friend, why have you come?" (Matt.26:50). That is to say, "It is well timed, Judas, that you came." And again He said, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the Temple, and you did not seize Me" (Matt. 26:55). They came at night so that some kind of riot might not be provoked by the crowd. Then the very high-spirited Peter drew back a sword and rushed at Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his right ear - the implication being that the High Priest neither heard nor taught the Law correctly. Then Christ reproved Peter, saying that it is not good that a spiritual man is known to make use of a sword, and He healed the ear of Malchus. They arrested Jesus and brought Him bound to the courtyard of the former High Priest, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas. There all the Pharisees and Scribes who held sentiments against Christ had been assembled.
Also, as the night passed on, there occurred the conversation between Peter and the servant girl during which he denied the Lord three times as the cock crowed twice. When Peter remembered the Lord's prophecy, he wept bitterly (see Mark 14:66-72).
When day arrived, they brought Christ from Annas to the High Priest Caiaphas, where He accepted both the spitters and the false witnesses who were summoned. When the day was already advanced, Caiaphas sent Him to Pilate. Those who brought Him did not enter into the Praetorium. so that they might not be defiled and might eat the Passover. For it appears that it was fitting that they eat the Passover then, especially from the many things Christ said before the Supper on Thursday evening when He ate it and afterwards handed over the more superb and exalted teachings. For, as we have said before, it was fitting that the Truth was to follow what was typified in the Law. As St. John the Theologian says, all these events came together before the feast of the Passover during the night of Thursday and on into Friday. For this reason we keep the feast, properly remembering these awesome and ineffable works and deeds.
Through Your ineffable compassion, O Christ our God,
have mercy on us and save us.
Troparion, Tone 8
When the glorious disciples at the supper were illumined by the washing
of the feet,
Kontakion, Tone 2
Having taken the bread in his hands,
Ikos: Having all approached the mystical supper in fear, let receive the bread in purity of soul and remain with the Master, that we may behold how He washes the feet of His disciples. And let us do as we have seen Him do, submitting one to another and washing each other's feet. For so Christ commanded His disciples. But Judas the slave and deceiver took no heed.
The Exapostilarion (The Hymn of Light)
Thy bridal chamber, O my Savior, I see adorned,
We considered it proper to present the teaching for the preparation of the Holy Lamb, how it is to be sacrificed on Great and Holy Thursday and how it is to be broken at Matins on Bright Tuesday and dried and kept for the entire year.
Fresh prosphoras are prepared for Great and Holy Thursday from pure flour, and the dough, containing salt, is put to rise and is beautifully baked. In the evening, at the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, the priest begins the Proscomedia as usual but with two prosphoras. After you remove the first Lamb, cutting and piercing it, you also remove a Lamb from the second prosphora, which will be consecrated and kept for the entire year, saying the same prayers of the Proscomedia for the second Lamb as for the first. The two Lambs are put together on the Holy Discos, after which wine is put into the Holy Chalice, as much as will be needed for the Divine Liturgy, along with a little water, praying the appropriate prayers and covering them with the holy covers, censing the gifts and praying the prayer of the Prothesis: "O God, our God..."
Now the Divine Liturgy is begun and served according to the usual order. After the Great Entrance, when the Holy Lambs are brought to the Holy Table and at the time of the Consecration, concentrate your mind and thoughts upon both Lambs and say in this manner: "And make this bread...," being mindful not to say, "these breads," and at the time of the Holy Elevation of the Gifts, raise both at the same time saying, "Holy things for the holy." The Holy Lamb that was removed first is broken, and a portion of it is placed into the Holy Chalice after which the warm water is added as usual. Then, with full attention, take the second Holy Lamb, and being very careful that no crumb falls, moisten it from the Holy Chalice and place it in the Artophorion. Watch carefully, O priest, that you do not put too much of the Holy Blood on it, over-filling the Holy Lamb and causing the Blood of the Lord to be spilled - this is a sin from which you could never escape, leading you to be considered as one who is careless with the Holy Mysteries. But add only enough to thoroughly moisten the Holy Lamb. Then, from Great and Holy Thursday, the Holy Lamb is to be kept in the Artophorion on the Holy Table until Matins of Bright Tuesday. It must be kept protected and covered.
On Bright Tuesday at Matins, fully vested, wash your hands, take the censer, and go before the Holy Table; bow humbly before the Holy Mysteries, and cense in the form of a cross around the Holy Table. After returning the censer, unfold the Holy Antimins and place the Artophorion containing the Divine Mysteries on the edge of the Antimins. Uncovering the Artophorion, take the censer again and cense the Divine Mysteries, making the proper reverence as you normally do. After you return the censer, remove the Holy Lamb with full attention and fear and place it on the Holy Discos, which is also placed on the Holy Antimins and prepared specifically for this. Then say aloud, "Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial...," and all the rest. Then, being alone before the Holy Table, sing "Christ is risen..." three times. Then, with all carefulness and in the fear of God, begin to break the Holy Body into small particles with the Holy Spear on the Holy Discos. During all this time, the singers chant all of Matins, according to the prescribed order. After the entire Holy Lamb is broken, place a small, clean flagstone on the edge of the Holy Antimins on the right side. On this stone, place a new clay bowl with burning charcoal; then, bowing with humility, take the Holy Discos containing the broken Divine Mysteries and place it on the bowl of charcoal. Being very careful, use the Holy Spear and turn the broken particles of the Divine Mysteries so that they may dry slowly, watching that they do not scorch. When the Holy Discos is warm enough, remove it from above the charcoal and place it on the Holy Antimins, so that it does not become too hot and burn the Divine Mysteries. If the Holy Discos cools and the Divine Mysteries are not sufficiently dry, again place the Holy Discos on the bowl with the live coals. Continue this procedure until the Divine Mysteries are well dried.
Again, be aware of this, O priest! If you are so careless as to burn the Divine Mysteries, you are guilty of a deadly sin and the grace of the priesthood could even be taken from you, for you are as one who is inattentive to the Holy Mysteries. If it somehow does happen that the Divine Mysteries burn while you are drying them, do not dare to keep them for the year, O priest! Keep them only until the next Holy Liturgy that you serve, at which time you must again remove another Holy Lamb and consecrate it and dry it in the way taught above; this one may then be kept for the year. The Divine Mysteries that were burned are kept on the Holy Table until the end of the Holy Liturgy and then added to the Holy Chalice after the Holy Communion. Watch then, that on the third or fourth day you be certain to open the Artophorion and see that the Divine Mysteries have not molded or spoiled. If this should happen, the Holy Reserved Gifts for the entire year are ruined and you are as those who are careless with the Divine Mysteries; this is a deadly sin, and the grace of the priesthood could even be taken from you. If it should somehow happen that the Divine Mysteries become molded or otherwise ruined, do not in any way dare to commune them to anyone. Do not wait again until the next Great and Holy Thursday, but prepare another Holy Lamb, consecrate it, and dry it as you were taught above, and with this you may commune the sick and those in need.