A Handmaid News

During the holiest week of the year, Holy Week, we have a special communal meal called the Agape. Agape is greek, ἀγάπη, for love. Specifically, it means the highest form of love. Hence it’s a perfect name for the meal in which Our Savior instituted the Priesthood and the Eucharist, the Last Supper, where he ‘loved them to the end’ and gave us himself and sacrificed himself for our salvation. 

It takes place after the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. We first assemble in the Chapter room where Rev. Mother shares a short reflection on this awesome day when Christ gave himself to us in the Eucharist through the Priesthood. As our lives are dedicated to sacrificing and praying for the sanctification of priests, most especially through Eucharistic adoration, this day is one of intense meaning for each Handmaid as we thank God for the double gift of Holy Orders and the Blessed Sacrament and humbly express our gratitude for our small role in supporting those called to work in the Lord’s vineyard. 

Refectory arrangement for Agape Meal which is eaten by candlelight in silence and permeated by prayer remembering Our Lord’s Supper.

After Mother’s talk we process slowly from Chapter to the Refectory singing Gift of Wheat from Thy Teeming Fields. The meal is taken by candlelight with the tables arranged together and decorated with wheat and grapes. After grace is prayed, we remain standing as Mother Prioress and Sub-Prioress pour small glasses of wine for each Handmaid. (Our Rule of Life calls for us to abstain from alcoholic beverages in reparation for its abuse. This meal is the one exception.) We then sing Ubi Caritas before Mother reads Matthew 26:26-29 and invites the Sisters to sip the wine. Afterwards we sit and eat in silence. The meal is served cold with items chosen to reflect both the ancient Jewish Passover Seder meal and the Last Supper but adapted to circumstances. So cold meat is joined with items bitter, sweet, and salty. Perhaps with an eye to the coming joy of Resurrection, there is even desert.

Throughout the meal, members of the Council serve their fellow Sisters. The meal is concluded with grace then a sung procession Where Charity and Love Prevail back to the Chapter Room where each Sister receives a blessing from the Mother Prioress. She blesses in the name of the Holy Trinity and through the heart of Mary, the First Handmaid of the Lord and the true Mother of our Monastery. Compline in Chapel finishes the day before we resume individual Holy Hours at the Altar of Repose until midnight.

It is a beautiful tradition that helps us more deeply enter into the mysteries of the Triduum when we seek to remain as close to Our Lord in his Passion as possible. The meal reminds us to be grateful for the privilege of living in the Real Presence all our days and to keep in mind all that we owe to Christ’s anointed ones, his priests.