The Catholic faithful in the country will on Thursday observe the “Holy Thursday” to mark the beginning of the Easter celebrations, to commemorate the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ.
Paschal mystery is one of the central concepts of Catholic faith relating to the history of salvation with the main subject being the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Fr. Daniel Ihunnia, the Registrar, Academic Dean, National Missionary Seminary of St. Paul, Gwagwalada, FCT, spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on the significance of the Holy Thursday to the Easter celebration on Wednesday in Abuja.
Ihunnia said that Catholics mark the ”Holy Thursday” as the beginning of Easter celebrations when the paschal mystery of Christ is commemorated by Christians all over the world.
He said that on a special day, a lot of activities were observed to celebrate the event which also commemorates God’s institution of the priesthood.
“On Holy Thursday, Christians mark three significant events: Christ ate the last supper with his disciples, and thus instituted the Holy Eucharist as the everlasting covenant with his body and blood.
“Christ at the same time instituted the Ministerial Priesthood, where he gave his apostles the command to constantly re-enact his sacrifice on the cross in a bloodless way.
“On this day too, Jesus left an example of humility for his disciples to follow. He washed the feet of his apostles telling them to do the same.
“This is a very significant gesture that offers an overall definition to a new paradigm of what it means to be a leader. A true leader is a humble servant,” he said.
The cleric said that Holy Thursday masses were to be celebrated in local churches in the evenings, since it recalls the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot, after the last supper.
“We can gain spiritual strength from all the events of the evening since as humans, we are constantly beset by temptations and trials.
“We are therefore invited to watch and pray with Christ. It reminds us that the garden of Gethsemane is along the way for all Nigerians.
“If we persevere, we shall also be victorious with Christ on Easter Sunday,” he said.
Mr Francis Ekene, a historian, also told NAN that the holy day falls on a Thursday, before Easter as part of Holy Week, adding that Jesus celebrated the dinner as a Passover feast.
“He fulfills his role as the Christian victim of the Passover for all to be saved by his final sacrifice as many Christians today will say,” he said.
Ekene said that the Last Supper was the final meal Jesus shared with His disciples in Jerusalem, where Jesus predicted his betrayal.
The historian said that the central observance of Holy Thursday was the ritual reenactment of the Last Supper, at Mass.
“This event is celebrated at every Mass as part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but it is specially commemorated on Holy Thursday.
“The event also establishes the special priesthood for his disciples, which is distinct from the priesthood of all believers and Christ washed the feet of His disciples, which we should emulate.
Ekene said that during the Mass, Catholics rightly believe, as an article of faith, that the unleavened bread and wine were transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ through a process known as “transubstantiation”.
“There have been notable Eucharistic miracles attributed to this event such as bleeding hosts (communion wafers).
“The Last Supper is celebrated daily in the Catholic Church as part of every Mass for it is through Christ’s sacrifice that we have been saved.”
The historian said that in the past 2000 years, not a single day had gone by without a Mass being celebrated in some fashion.