The evening celebration "in the Lord's Supper" begins the Holy Easter Triduum, in which the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus are commemorated.
In the Roman Rite, this celebration commemorates the Institution of the Eucharist and takes on a particularly festive hue: the vestments are in fact white and, at the beginning of the Mass, the Gloria is sung. The setting of the corresponding celebration of the Ambrosian Rite is totally different. The liturgy, in fact, commemorating the Institution of the Eucharist, traces the initial moments of the Lord's Passion: the Last Supper, the betrayal of Judas, the agony in Gethsemane, the arrest of Jesus, the abandonment by the disciples, the trial before the Sanhedrin and the denial of Peter.
The Mass is preceded by the Washing of the feet which, recalling the humble gesture with which Jesus prefigured the total gift of himself in his Passion, proclaims the primacy of service. This year the Archbishop Monsignor Mario Delpini will preside over this rite, washing the feet of twelve lay people, representatives of the Gruppi Barnaba of the Decanates of the City of Milan, engaged in the diocesan consultation phase in view of the next Synod of Bishops.
The Eucharistic celebration is inserted in the prayer of Vespers and opens with the rite of the skylight, accompanied by the lighting of the lights and the offering of incense on the altar. After the proclamation of the Passion according to Matthew and the homily of the Archbishop, the antiphon Cenæ tuæ is sung: an ancient text, translated directly from a Byzantine original of the sixth century, which only the Ambrosian tradition has in the West. It recalls the mystical Supper to which Christ invites the faithful and Judas' treacherous kiss.
The choreographic setting in which this song is performed is also suggestive, which introduces us to the Eucharistic liturgy: it is entrusted to the pueri cantores of the Musical Chapel, arranged ina crown around the altar, the symbol of Christ. Similarly to what happens in the Easter Vigil, the Milanese liturgy has also preserved a text specific to the Eucharistic Canon.
Finally, after Communion, the Archbishop carries the Eucharist in procession to the place of the Reposition, at the side altar of the Madonna dell’Albero. In ancient times this rite was celebrated "pro sepultura dominica rapræsentanda", as if to re-present the Burial of the Lord: from here the devotion of visiting the "Tombs" was generated, especially in the context of popular religiosity. A small detail survives from this allegorical reading of the repositioning of the Eucharist: during the procession, the Archbishop covers the pyx by wrapping it with the edges of the humeral veil, alluding to the gesture made by Joseph of Arimathea who, according to the Gospels, wrapped the body of Jesus in the shroud, before placing him in the tomb.
The celebration ends at the altar of the Reposition with the singing of the Psalmody of Vespers. Precisely the antiphon that introduces the Evening Psalms of Holy Thursday can help us to better understand the meaning of this celebration: "Listen, the Master tells you:" I want to celebrate Easter with my disciples at your place. " This antiphon takes literally the first words that the Lord pronounces at the beginning of his Passion. We could imagine these words addressed to us too today. Obviously, in this case, it is not just a question (as in the Gospel episode that opens the Passion) of requesting a room suitable for the Easter dinner or of finding someone to make their home available. We must reread these words more deeply, as an invitation that the Lord addresses to each one, to those who sincerely want to be his disciple, to share his Easter journey which through the night of Holy Thursday will reach the cross on Friday and the empty tomb on Sunday of resurrection. The Lord Jesus wants to choose each of us as his companion in these holy days. It is up to us to respond, knowing full well that while accepting can be hard and demanding, it is also the only real way to experience an authentic Christian Easter.