Father Clark and I invite you to join with us in the three holiest days in the Catholic Church’s liturgical year.
It is in these three days called the Easter or Sacred Triduum that Jesus’ complete self-giving is once again represented for us, His people chosen by Baptism. It is three days of life-giving self-sacrifice which results in life-giving resurrection.
In a certain way it is a dress rehearsal for each and every one of us because as Jesus suffered and died before He returned to the Father, most likely we will be called upon to suffer prior to our death.
I pray that these three days, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday will be a preview of what awaits us and that we be open to the Spirit in our lives to help us prepare for that all most important day when we will stand before our heavenly Father.
Following is a synopsis of what these three days are for each of us in our Catholic tradition and an overview of the ritual and the meaning of these life-giving days.
Holy Thursday is also known as “Maundy Thursday.” The word maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (commandment) which is the first word of the Gospel acclamation: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
These are the words spoken by our Lord to His apostles at the Last Supper, after he completed the washing of the feet. We should imitate Christ’s humility in the washing of the feet.
By meditating on the Gospels (cf. Matt 26:1 ff.; Mark 14:1 ff.; Luke 22:1 ff.; John 13:1 ff.), we can recall to mind Jesus’ actions of that day.
The events of that first Holy Thursday are summarized as follows:
They include: (1) the eating of the Easter lamb or the paschal meal; (2) the washing of the disciple’s feet; (3) the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist (the first Mass at which Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest, is the celebrant; the first Communion of the apostles; the first conferring of Holy Orders); (4) the foretelling of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denials; (5) the farewell discourse and priestly prayer of Jesus; (6) the agony and capture of Jesus in the Garden of Olives
Mass of the Lord’s Supper
In the evening of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. It is celebrated in the evening because the Passover began at sundown. There is only one Mass, at which the whole community and priests of the parish are asked to participate. This is a very joyful Mass, as we recall the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood. The priests wear white vestments, the altar is filled with flowers, the Gloria is sung and the bells are rung. After the Gloria, musical instruments and bells fall silent until the Easter Vigil. The Liturgy of the Mass recalls the Passover, the Last Supper, which includes the Washing of the Feet. The hymn Ubi Caritas or Where Charity and Love Prevail is usually sung at this time. After the Communion Prayer, there is no final blessing. The Holy Eucharist is carried in procession through Church and then transferred into a place of reposition, which for us at St. Michael is the Day Chapel. The hymn Pange Lingua is also usually sung at this time.
After the Mass, we recall the Agony in the Garden, and the arrest and imprisonment of Jesus. The altar is stripped bare, crosses are removed or covered. The Eucharist has been placed in an altar of repose, and our parish will be open for silent adoration in the Day Chapel, to answer Christ’s invitation “Could you not, then, watch one hour with me?” (Matt 26:40)
The Altar of Repose
When the Eucharist is carried to the altar of repose in the Day Chapel after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we should remain in quiet prayer and adoration, worshipping Christ.
Popular Catholic piety is particularly responsive to the adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Because of a long historical process, whose origins are not entirely clear, the place of repose has traditionally been referred to as “a holy sepulchre”.
What can we do during adoration? It is a reverent and austere solemn reservation of the Body of Christ for the community of the faithful which takes part in the liturgy of Good Friday and for the viaticum of the infirmed. It is also a welcome invitation to silent and prolonged adoration of the wondrous sacrament instituted by Jesus on this day.
After midnight on Holy Thursday, the adoration should conclude without solemnity, since the day of the Lord’s Passion has already begun.
Washing of Feet
As a symbol of humility and, standing in persona Christi, the priest midway through the Mass of the Lord’s supper, will take off his chasuble (the outer garment) and wash the feet of 12 men in imitation of Jesus’ service to his apostles and the church. John 13:1 – 17.
“It is accomplished; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.”
On Good Friday the whole Church mourns the death of our Savior. This is traditionally a day of sadness, spent in fasting and prayer. This is an obligatory day of fasting and abstinence.
According to the Church’s ancient tradition, the sacraments (including Mass) are not celebrated on Good Friday nor Holy Saturday. The “Celebration of the Lord’s Passion,” is celebrated. The Stations of the Cross will be celebrated at St. Michael in the Commons Area at 3 p.m., the time of Jesus’ death on the cross.
The Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord
The altar is completely bare, with no cloths, candles or cross. The service is divided into three parts:
- Liturgy of the Word
- Veneration of the Cross
- Holy Communion. The priest and deacons wear red vestments. The liturgy starts with the priests and deacons going to the altar in silence and prostrating themselves for a few moments in silent prayer (as an act of humility).
An introductory prayer is prayed. In part one, the Liturgy of the Word, we hear the most famous of the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah (52:13-53:12), a prefigurement of Christ on Good Friday. Psalm 31 is the Responsorial Psalm “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Second Reading, or Epistle, is from the letter to the Hebrews, 4:14-16; 5:7-9. The Gospel Reading is the Passion of St. John.
The General Intercessions conclude the Liturgy of the Word. The ten intercessions cover these areas:
For the Church
For the Pope
For all holy orders and degrees of the faithful
For those preparing for baptism
For the unity of Christians
For the Jewish people
For those who do not believe in Christ
For those who do not believe in God
For all in public office
For those in tribulation
Veneration of the Cross
A cross, veiled, is processed through the Church, and then venerated by the congregation. We joyfully venerate and kiss or show some other sign of reverence to the wooden cross “on which hung the Savior of the world.” During this time the “Reproaches” are usually sung or recited.
Holy Communion concludes the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. The altar is covered with a cloth and the ciboriums containing the Blessed Sacrament are brought to the altar from the place of reposition – the Day Chapel. The Our Father and the Lamb of God are prayed. After the congregation receives Holy Communion, a Prayer after Communion, and a prayer over the people, is prayed and everyone departs in silence.
This is a day of mourning. We should try to take time off from work and activities such as T.V., computers, video games, music, sports, etc. to participate in the devotions and liturgy of the day as much as possible.
On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his suffering and death. The altar is left bare, and the sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. Only after the solemn vigil during the night, held in anticipation of the resurrection, does the Easter celebration begin, with a spirit of joy that overflows into the following period of fifty days.
Holy Saturday is sacred. The day is and should be calm and quiet, a day broken by no liturgical function. Christ lies in the grave, the Church sits near and mourns.
There are no liturgies celebrated this day.
The Easter Vigil will be celebrated at St. Michael beginning at 8 p.m.
The Easter Vigil begins with the blessing of the Easter fire (representing Jesus as the light of the world rising from the dead to dispel the powers of sin and darkness) and the preparation of the Easter candle (which represents Jesus).
The Commons Area will be darkened and every member the congregation will hold an individual candle. The Easter candle will be brought in procession and three times Father Clark will chant “the light of Christ” and the congregation will respond “thanks be to God.” At the front the Commons Area the lights will be turned on and Father Clark will sing the Easter proclamation (the Exsultet).
The second part of the Easter vigil is the Liturgy of the Word. There will be four readings from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah and Ezekiel.
Following these readings will be the blessing of the Easter water and the Rite of Reception for those joining the Church. Following that, Father Clark will celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation for those people. The celebration of the Eucharist follows.
Easter Sunday is the most solemn day in the church’s liturgical year celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is a time of joy and celebration for all of us. Jesus is risen from the dead – Alleluia.