Holy Week, April 5-11
The Sunday before Easter, at Mass we commemorate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before his Passion and Death on the Cross. We wave blessed palms for the entrance procession and the Passion narrative is read during Mass.
The Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week are a time of spiritual and practical preparation for the holiest days of the year. One custom dating back to the early history of the Church is spring cleaning. This may have its roots in the Jewish tradition of ridding the house of “the old” in preparation for Passover.
The Triduum, the most sacred 3 days of the year, begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 p.m. This liturgy focuses on the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist and washed the feet of his disciples. Since Lent is now officially over, the Mass has joyful overtones reflected in the vestments and decorations. The ‘Glory to God’, not sung since Ash Wednesday, returns for this brief moment. Mass begins with the presentation of the sacramental oils blessed earlier in the day at the Cathedral. These oils are used during the coming year for Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick. Then 12 people, representing the 12 apostles, will have their feet washed by the priest. Following Mass, we join the procession led by the priest carrying the Blessed Sacrament into the Gathering Space. The altar is then stripped.
Washing of the Feet
Since the 5th century, Holy Thursday Mass includes a ceremonial washing of feet by the presiding priest. This ritual imitates Jesus’ humility and willingness to serve, demonstrated at the Last Supper.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
At the end of the Holy Thursday Liturgy, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession with incense and song to the Gathering Space. The Eucharist is placed in a temporary tabernacle and a time of silent prayer begins as we quietly depart. Many of us stay to pray a holy hour sometime before 11:00 pm.
Stripping the Altar
A new theme emerges in anticipation of Jesus’ suffering and death. The altar table is stripped in silence and other adornments are removed from the church. This action symbolizes Jesus’ stripping before his crucifixion. This begins the hours of waiting with Jesus as the saving events begin to unfold.
On Good Friday we commemorate the passion and death of Jesus on the cross. This is the only day of the year Mass is not celebrated. Instead of Mass we gather for:
- 12:00 n – Stations of the Cross
- 1:00 pm – Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion & Veneration of the Cross
- 3:00 pm – Divine Mercy Chaplet
Stations of the Cross
For centuries pilgrims traveled to the Holy Land, walking in Jesus’ footsteps on his way to Calvary. The Stations depict the events of his journey. In the mid-18th century, Stations were permitted in all Catholic churches. Today we “pray” the Stations of the Cross at any time, traditionally during Lent, and especially Good Friday.
Veneration of the Cross
Late in the 4th century, the veneration of the cross was included in the Good Friday tradition in Jerusalem. The slow procession of people coming forward to kiss the cross remains a dramatic feature of our Good Friday service.
Divine Mercy Chaplet
This chaplet is a Christian devotion to the Divine Mercy, based on the apparitions of Jesus appearing to St. Faustina Kowalska, known as “the Apostle of Mercy.”
Holy Saturday is a quiet day of remembering Jesus in the tomb. The only activity taking place before the Easter Vigil is the Blessing of the Food at 9:00 am. The blessing of special food prepared for Easter is still a tradition, especially among those of Eastern European ancestry. We bring baskets of food to church for blessings by the priest or deacon.
Easter Vigil Mass
The Easter Vigil is the 1st Mass of Easter at 8:00 pm on Holy Saturday and is the high point of the liturgical year. This celebration dates back to the early days of Christianity. During the first 3 centuries, Easter was celebrated on Saturday evening by keeping watch, listening to Scripture, and welcoming new Christians into the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Communion. The early Church chose the night hours to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death; and began with lighting an Easter fire on the porch of the church. Now we light the Pascal Candle, read Scripture, and a homily is preached. Those who aren’t Christian are baptized and those who are baptized make a Profession of Faith. Then all are Confirmed and receive Holy Communion. Rich in signs and symbols, this Mass is deeply solemn and intensely joyful. We gather in the Canfield Center after the Vigil Mass for a reception with these new Catholics, their families, and friends.