Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Getting a Bit More out of Holy Week

Written by  Jim Nakoneshny

Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, is the busiest on the church calendar. It begins with the pageantry of Palm Sunday, with the faithful processing into the church amidst the waving of palms, commemorating the arrival of Christ in Jerusalem. Good Friday and Easter Sunday services later that week are traditionally very well attended, but if you’re able to put in the time, there are additional elements relating to these celebrations that help to accentuate and give deeper meaning to the mystery of Holy Week.

The first of these is the diocesan Chrism Mass on the Monday of Holy Week, where the Bishop blesses the Holy Oils for the upcoming year and diocesan priests renew their commitment. If you haven’t been to the Chrism before, consider making plans to attend next year. Although a bit more formal than a typical liturgy, this celebration highlights the role of our Bishop, with all of the priests and many of the faithful from across the diocese in attendance.

The Triduum starts Thursday with one continuous liturgy spread over the 3 days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Saturday night Easter Vigil, celebrating the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper. You will notice upon arrival that the table is set for the Passover Feast that Jesus will be sharing with his disciples. During this service the Bishop takes on the role of Christ in the washing of the feet of his followers. The presentation of gifts during this Mass includes a ceremonial dressing of the altar, the reception of the oils blessed at the Chrism Mass, and gifts for the poor. Communion uses traditional unleavened bread and red wine. As the evening closes, the altar is again stripped bare and the congregation exits in silence, to reassemble the next day.

The Blessed Sacrament will be processed out of the church Thursday night and into the Queen of Peace chapel, which has been set with flowers and candles to symbolise the Garden of Gethsemane. If you’re able, please consider spending some time in the presence of the Lord in the garden. The atmosphere and experience is unique to that one night per year. The chapel is open until 11:45pm.

On Good Friday the faithful return, again in silence, to commemorate Christ’s passion and death including veneration of the cross. Again, if you’re able to stay or come back later, the anointed cross will remain in the chapel all night from 8:30pm to 10:00am for the overnight Vigil of the Cross.

The Easter Vigil on Saturday at 8:30pm is a very special celebration. Beginning outside with the lighting of the new Paschal Candle from the Easter fire, the congregation moves inside into the darkened church which is then illuminated with candles lit from the Paschal candle. The final act of the Triduum, this is a long service (about 3 hours), but truly gives a sense of the whole of our faith legacy. Continuing in the darkened church, the Vigil includes a series of readings beginning with the opening words of Genesis and leading through to the renewed illumination of the space and the proclaimed Glory of God. Later that evening will be the baptism of 26 adult and youth baptism candidates, with the Bishop entering into the baptismal font to perform several baptisms by immersion. The night concludes with a hearty community lunch (Agape Meal) in the Hall.

If you’re able to take in any or all of these activities, it will truly give you a fuller sense of the experience of Easter. Have a joyful and blessed Easter Season!

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