Pastor's Corner 041314

posted Apr 16, 2014, 10:42 AM by Music Director

Picking up where we left off last week, the Thursday of Holy week, or Holy Thursday, begins the sacred Triduum (TRIH-doo-um, Latin for “three days”), the holiest days of this holiest of weeks.  The only Mass permitted on Holy Thursday is the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  In it we recall Jesus’ last meal with His disciples shortly before His arrest, which happened to be the Jewish Seder meal of the observance of Passover.  This is no mere coincidence!  As the Jewish people celebrate their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, so the followers of Jesus Christ celebrate our deliverance from bondage to sin and death.  It was during this Seder that Jesus instituted the sacraments of Eucharist (“This IS my body. This IS my blood.”) and Holy Orders (“Do this in remembrance of me.”)  Feet are washed in imitation of Jesus’ life of service to others, especially in His offering of His own life for the remission of all sin. 

After Communion, the Eucharist is transferred to a temporary location where the faithful may visit to reflect on the sacrificial gift the Lord has given us in the sacrament of His Body and Blood, and the salvation to which it leads.  At one time, churches were open all night and it was customary to visit several local parishes, but for practical reasons this custom has been reduced to a few hours in most places, at the latest ending at midnight.  This year, our Chapel of Repose will be set up in Sienna Hall to accommodate the many who accompany the procession from the church. 

               On Good Friday, we remember and celebrate Jesus’ death on the cross and the salvation it assures to all who follow Him.  No Masses are celebrated this day.  However, the Service of the Lord’s Passion is celebrated usually around 3:00 PM, the time tradition holds that Jesus died on the cross.  The service includes the veneration of a cross, the symbol of our salvation, and Holy Communion with hosts consecrated at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  No other rituals or services are permitted, though some places hold special reflections on the words of Jesus from the Cross as recorded in the 4 Gospels (the “7 Last Words”), as we do here at St. Charles from 12:00-3:00 PM.  Others offer Stations of the Cross in the evening for those who cannot participate in the afternoon service.  Remember that Good Friday is a day of both fasting (just one full meal) and abstinence from meat!      

The next day, Holy Saturday, is a day for quiet reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself in preparation for celebrating His Resurrection.  Part of that preparation may include the Blessing of Easter Foods, which takes place in our Emmaus Chapel at 12:00 Noon.  At sundown, the Easter Vigil, the “mother of all Christian liturgies,” begins with the lighting of a fire, symbolizing the light of the risen Christ.  The light is transferred to the large Paschal (Easter) Candle, which is carried into the darkened Church, symbolizing the light of Christ shattering the darkness of sin and death.  The faithful light small candles from the large one, symbolizing their willingness to follow, live in and reflect the light of the risen Christ. 

The Exsultet, the Church’s ancient song of joy in Christ’s Resurrection is chanted, followed by several readings from Scripture that trace God’s plan of salvation from the beginning of Creation.  A responsorial psalm and a prayer giving praise to God for the gift of salvation follow each reading from the Old Testament.  Following the last Old Testament scripture, the Gloria (Glory to God) is sung and the lights of the Church are turned on, reflecting our joy in the risen Christ, the Light of the World.

After the Gospel reading of Jesus’ Resurrection, adults who have been preparing for initiation into the Church are brought forward.  We invoke the prayerful support of the saints, water is blessed, and the Elect (unbaptized candidates) are baptized.  All the faithful renew their own baptismal promises and are sprinkled with the newly blessed “Easter water.”  Then the candidates who have already been baptized make their profession of faith and are confirmed along with the newly baptized.  The liturgy of the Eucharist follows, with those newly received “neophytes” making their first communion with us. 

In ancient times, the Vigil lasted from sundown until dawn, making it a true vigil with the Lord.  Although the modern Easter Vigil is considerably shorter, it is still a rather lengthy service (often 2 hours or more) filled with intricate symbolism, which makes it unsuitable for most children under 12. 

               Holy Week concludes on Easter Sunday, the great day of celebrating the Lord’s victory over death, which He shares with all who are united to Him in faith, hope and love.  In a twist of irony, “Easter” gets its name from Oesteres, the Druid goddess of spring in ancient Anglo-Saxon lore, who was believed to turn her pet bird into a rabbit each spring to amuse good children.  This gave rise to the Easter egg, as Oesteres’ rabbit (or “Easter bunny,” get it?), still being a bird, would lay colorful eggs for the children to find.  Christian missionaries adopted the custom of the Easter egg, since the egg had always been a symbol of new life in nearly every culture around the world.  And isn’t that exactly what we celebrate in nature with Spring, and what Christians celebrate in the Resurrection of Christ?

Whatever personal, family or ethnic traditions you keep, I hope you will all try to attend as many of these special celebrations as possible.  They will certainly enrich your faith and deepen your appreciation for all the Lord has done to accomplish our salvation.  So here’s wishing you a very holy Holy Week!

 

In His Love,

Fr. Mike

 

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