Dear Ladies and Friends of the Sodality,
With Holy Thursday fast approaching, I wanted to write to you about one of the beautiful traditions of the Sacred Triduum—the Altar of Repose. Due to current events in our country, many of you may not have the opportunity to make a visit to your parish’s Altar of Repose, so I would like, nonetheless, to give you a chance to comfort Our Divine Savior.
What Is the Altar of Repose?
From the earliest times, Holy Thursday has been a day of exceptional devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It was on the first Holy Thursday night that Our Divine Savior instituted the Holy Eucharist and solidified His promise to remain with us “all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28:20).
Among the many beautiful rites of Holy Week is the transferring of the Blessed Sacrament to what is called the Altar of Repose. The Altar of Repose is a special altar on which Our Eucharistic Savior reposes after the Mass of Holy Thursday until the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday.
In the Mass on Holy Thursday two hosts are consecrated. One is consumed at that Mass; the other is placed in a chalice and covered with a white veil. The chalice containing the Blessed Sacrament is then carried to the Altar of Repose. This procession is reminiscent of the Apostles accompanying Christ to Gethsemane after the Last Supper. On reaching the Altar of Repose, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a special tabernacle, or urn. There, Our Divine Savior remains until the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, as He remained in the Garden of Gethsemane that first Holy Thursday night.
Since the close of the fifteenth century, it has been customary to decorate the Altar of Repose with rich hangings, beautiful flowers, and numerous candles. For centuries, the Altar of Repose has been a central part of the Sacred Triduum devotions. Spending at least an hour in silent prayer before their Eucharistic Savior, faithful from all walks of life have sought to console the Sacred Heart of Jesus Who is so offended by the sins of the world. Thus, through the years, these devout souls have been to Christ what the Angel of the Agony was to Him in the Garden—sources of comfort, consolation, and reparation.
Can I Be This Same Source of Comfort to Our Savior at Home?
Since some of you may not have the opportunity to spend an hour at your chapel’s Altar of Repose because of current circumstances, this year I encourage you to make a Holy Hour at the Altar of Repose in spirit from your own home. You can offer the Sacred Heart the same love and reparation as you would if you were able to adore Our Divine Savior really present in the Blessed Sacrament.
How To Make the Holy Hour
The hour of adoration should, when possible, be made before the Altar of Repose, if available at your chapel; if not, it should be made in your home before an image of the Sacred Heart. It is ideal to offer these prayers before the image that has been enthroned in your home. If you do not have a picture or statue of the Sacred Heart, the hour can be made before a crucifix or image of the Blessed Mother.
*Please note that if you have signed up for an hour of adoration at your chapel’s Altar of Repose, you may sign up for the same hour here. The goal is to have at least one person keep Our Lord company throughout these hours.
Who May Take Part
■ The hour of adoration may be made alone.
■ However, I do encourage you to involve your family and even your friends if possible.
Range of Hours
■ The hours of adoration will begin at 1 p.m. on Holy Thursday and end at 8 a.m. on Good Friday (the last hour will end at 9 a.m.). Please see the attached list of hours.
*All hours are Eastern Standard Time.
How To Sign Up for an Hour
■ If you wish to participate, please email me or your sodality coordinator as soon as possible stating which hour you would like.
■ Multiple people may select the same hour of adoration.
■ A reminder email will be sent out Wednesday afternoon.
■ Deadline to sign up is Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EST.
■ A final list will be sent Holy Thursday morning.
Suggested Devotions for the Holy Hour
■ The Rosary
■ The Litany of the Sacred Heart
■ The Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart
■ Meditation on the Passion of Christ (I will send a PDF file of a meditation on the Agony in the Garden that may be printed and used.)
■ Spiritual Reading on the Passion of Christ
■ The Daughters of Mary website (www.daughtersofmary.net) has prayers and spiritual reading books posted that may be helpful. They will also have photos of their Altar of Repose. These should be available by late afternoon or Thursday evening.
■ Burning a candle before the image of the Sacred Heart
■ Placing flowers before the image of the Sacred Heart
Pope Pius VII granted a plenary indulgence to all who on Maundy Thursday perform some pious exercise (reading, meditation, etc.) for one hour in commemoration of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, provided that, being truly contrite, they go to confession and Holy Communion on that day or any day of the week following.
Let us then spare no effort in seeking to comfort Our Divine Savior and in making reparation for the sins and ingratitude of man. Let us also make it a point during our Holy Hour to implore His tender mercy for our country and ask Him to hasten the end of the crisis in the United States and throughout the world. May you have a blessed Holy Week. I shall remember you in my prayers throughout the week.
In the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart,