This is My Body, This is My Blood

By Emily Clark

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano commemorated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. Augustine Cathedral on Holy Thursday, the first of the three solemn days of the Sacred Paschal Triduum. The faithful gathered to remember Jesus’ final meal but also to celebrate the washing of his apostles’ feet and the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Christ. As incense rose heavenward, voices from the choir so reverently proclaimed hymns in both Latin and English, commemorating the moment when Jesus uttered what the bishop called “words that changed all creation.”

“Words matter,” he said as he opened the homily. “We gather tonight in this sacred space to sit in awe of the words Jesus spoke this night to his apostles: this is my body; this is the cup of my blood. He did not say ‘this is like my body’ or ‘this is a sign of my body.’ And if words matter, the one who speaks the words matters even more. The one who spoke the words is our savior, our redeemer.”

The bishop reminded those before him that Jesus took a simple meal and transformed it into the sacrament of his Passover. This, he said, though a mystery, is also a great gift. “My friends, here is the Lord Jesus’ true body, true blood, soul and divinity,” he continued. “He comes to us every time we gather to do this in his memory. There are no words in any language that can fully describe the mystery we celebrate so that we might, with his grace, love as he did.”

In attempting to do so, the bishop asked the congregation if, when they receive this sacrament each Sunday, they are willing to allow it to fill their hearts so they may love as he did and love in a way “different from the world that wants to divide us.” He also offered a reminder of how easy it is to take another, including the Lord, for granted. Referring to the removal of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose, Bishop Caggiano said, “Tonight, he is no longer in this tabernacle so that we may once again not take his presence for granted. Tonight, we have the opportunity to spend time with him, so please my friends, spend that time.”

“This is my body. This is my blood,” the bishop recited. “These are the words that have changed the whole world. What words will we say to him in return?”
Following the homily, a reenactment of the humble washing of the feet began, in which, the bishop said, Jesus taught his followers how to love one another. With a towel and a basin of water, the bishop emulated Jesus on the night before his death as he washed the feet of 12 men, some in dress shirts and ties, others in T-shirts and jeans. The choir sang the antiphons as those in attendance responded with “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Many of these men, who all volunteered just prior to Mass, bowed in prayer as the bishop completed this ritual.

After Holy Communion, the bishop knelt before the altar and incensed the Blessed Sacrament. Led by fellow priests and altar servers, Bishop Caggiano carried a veiled ciborium and processed through the cathedral as the choir sang the traditional “Pange Lingua Glorisi.” The body of Christ was then placed in an altar of repose as the strands of “Tantum Ergo” ended, concluding the liturgy.

From the altar, flowers were removed and candles were snuffed. While the priests left the sanctuary, a line began to form for adoration, and the faithful prayed in silence as the sacred observance of Good Friday approached.

Photos by Amy Mortensen