Tonight we begin the Holy Triduum, the Church's shortest liturgical season. You might also call it the Church's longest liturgy.
We begin and end every Mass and other liturgical celebrations with the Sign of the Cross. That action serves both to call upon the Trinity to sanctify our prayer and signal our passage from kronos (chronological) to kairos (sacred) time. Now notice that the Mass of the Lord's Supper begins with the Sign of the Cross; it does not occur again, however, until the end of the Easter Vigil.
So I like treat these days with the same solemnity outside of church as I do within. That means no TV, no music, little to no work or errands, and a focus on silence, Scripture and prayer. Perhaps you could try that, too.
Tonight also marks the commemoration of the establishment of the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. Jesus, who humbled Himself in becoming man in order to teach us and die for us on the cross, further humbles Himself in coming under the appearance of bread and wine.
It is fitting then that, like the Jews who consumed the sacrificed passover lamb, we are commanded to consume the sacrificed and resurrected Lamb of God who gives us life. It is also fitting that the Lord calls some men to share in His Priesthood in order to feed and strengthen the universal priesthood of all believers. If the Eucharist is the Heart of the Church, then the ministerial priesthood is the skeleton, whose purpose is to protect and support the Body of Christ.
This night is so rich in liturgical symbolism, but one of the most powerful parts of the evening for me is the procession to the altar of repose for Adoration. Here we sing hymns (the haunting Pange Lingua is my favorite) and keep watch with the Lord (Mk 14:26, 34).
Our souls, too, are sorrowful because, unlike Peter, James and John, we know what has happened and how we ourselves have contributed. And so the time with the Lord in Adoration--at least an hour, as He asked of us (Mt 26:40), though I prefer longer--is a special time of resting in His Presence, allowing Him to lovingly gaze upon us.
It is also the opportune time to reflect on the death that we celebrate tomorrow.