Watch and Pray

Celebration of the Eucharist concludes Holy Thursday mass. We did it in memory of Him; just as he taught his disciples over two thousand years ago. He gave us another lesson to memorize as well. Once again, God-Made-Man, humbles Himself to wash the feet of His disciples and teaches them,

“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (St. John 13:1-5).

So now when we go about doing corporeal and spiritual works of mercy we are modeling Jesus and hopefully others see Jesus through our actions.

All good things come in three, especially where the Trinity is involved. So to on this night Jesus sets for us another example. After they finished their Passover meal they walk to Gethsemane where Jesus prays while the disciples wait for Him. Alas, as we know they do not set for us the best example as they fall asleep. Jesus, I imagine, compassionately admonishes Peter each time for not remaining vigilant,

“Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (St. Mark 14:38)

So it is upon conclusion of Holy Thursday mass the music ceases. There is quiet as Father clears the altar save the ciborium of remaining Hosts. The expectation is that he says some final prayer. But it does not come. Instead, he flames the incense, the smoke rises to the heavens and the sweet smell fills the pews. He then picks up the ciborium and solemnly carries it through the church. The altar boy follows gently swinging the incense holder filling yet more of the church with the floral notes.

Finally the priest arrives at the tabernacle. He places the ciborium within, brings down the veil and then closes the doors. No words are spoken. No music is played. He genuflects one last time and then, with head bowed, he proceeds out of the church. Awkwardly and with some shuffle and whispers the congregation picks up and exits the church. Mass may be over, but Our Lord is now, symbolically, in the garden of Gethsemane. We have a chance to watch and pray with our Lord. This is the final lesson he teaches us this evening. To watch and pray. Pray that our Spirit, which is willing, may be strong. Pray that we too may undergo whatever test is to come our way. We pray with true humility like Jesus that, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (St. Mark 14:36).

We watch and we pray in a quiet church, one church of thousands throughout the world, in solidarity with the millions of other Catholics watching, praying, waiting for that bitter moment when Christ tells us,

“It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand” (St. Mark 14:42).

4 thoughts on “Watch and Pray

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