Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Catholic Activity: Holy Thursday Activities in the Home



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These are ideas to implement in the family on Holy Thursday. This is the day of fraternal charity, so there are suggestions to have acts of charity for one another, such as washing each other's feet, doing humble works for family members, having a family feast and inviting other people for dinner. Holy Thursday is also the commemoration of the Last Supper, so here are some ideas on recreating the Last Supper at home.


This is the day of fraternal charity, and charity truly begins at home. The parents will take the lead in setting the example for this day. Every act will be more considerate, our voices will be moderated out of respect for one another. We show an extra willingness to give way to one another. We pass up opportunities for argument and criticism. We meditate on the truth that this is the day to commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, and we feel the excitement of the anniversary of a great event.

On this day our Lord washed the feet of His disciples, explaining his action by saying: "If I your Lord and Master have washed your feet, how much more ought you to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). Parents, indeed, have had the "mandatum" many times daily for their children when they were babies and needed daily scrubbings. Still, Holy Thursday is the day on which the father, as the symbol of Christ in the home ("Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the Church"), should perform some symbolic act of humility.

Let each family determine for itself what the father's task shall be. It might be that the father will shine the shoes of his children. Or he may scrub a floor that is in the center of family traffic, or make the beds for all the family members, or wash clothes and dishes. The guide for action will be to avoid anything which might lead to levity, but which will still give the father a chance to serve humbly the other members of the family.

Holy Thursday is the day for a family feast to commemorate the Last Supper. The time of the meal will have to be adjusted to evening Mass at church, or if it cannot be arranged for the night, it can be the noonday meal. We re-live in our homes the meal at which the Food of Life was instituted.

The Holy Thursday feast takes on greater meaning when we include foods used by Christ and His disciples at the Pasch. This means that each person will have a goblet of wine (or grape juice, depending on age or personal choice). Unleavened bread (matzos) may be provided, to represent the "bread of affliction" which the Jews ate while fleeing from Egypt. Some bitter herbs (radishes or horseradish) are eaten, to stand for the bitterness of slavery. Parsley or lettuce represents greens as a token of gratitude for all the products of the earth, while a fruit jam (haroseth), a mixture of fruit and nuts crushed together, is a symbol of the mortar used by the Jewish people in their slavery.

Since this is the feast of fraternal charity, we might invite a family of close friends or relatives to share this symbolic meal with us. Perhaps the guests might want to share in preparing the meal. The meat dish ideally would be leg of lamb, which again relates our meal to the Pasch which Christ was observing at the Last Supper. A lamb cake can be baked (moulds in the shape of a lamb are available at department stores) and frosted white. Surmounted by a small white banner it becomes a lovely centerpiece for the meal and symbolizes the new Pasch, Christ.

The celebration of the Holy Thursday feast, especially if the father gives a brief commentary to show how this meal links us with Christ, creates an air of awe and intimacy with our Lord and His disciples. Just as the Pasch represented the liberation of the Jews from slavery, so the Last Supper represents for us the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. The God-Man who has been obedient to the prayer and liturgy of the Jews now takes this occasion to institute the new Pasch.

In contrast with the other days of Holy Week, the Holy Thursday feast has a joyous tone throughout. It is a moment of celebration that breaks the austerity of the week, just as at Holy Mass today the Gloria will be sung and the church bells will peal. At the conclusion of the meal, all rise and join in Ubi Caritas.

Where charity and love abide, there is God.

The love of Christ has gathered us together; let us be gay in Him, and cheerful; let us love and be in awe of the living God, and love each other with honest hearts.

Where charity and love abide, there is God.

So now that we are gathered together let us take care not to be isolated in ourselves. Let ill will, quarrels, and disagreements stop, and Christ our God be among us.

Where charity and love abide, there is God.

And together, with the saints, may we see Your face in glory, Christ our God. That is straight, unmeasured joy, for ages on unending ages. Amen.

Activity Source: Lent and Holy Week in the Home by Emerson and Arlene Hynes, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1977