Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
Perhaps you have come to the end of Lent with very little to show for all of the well-intentioned resolutions you made on Ash Wednesday. Not to worry, you can salvage it all by participating in the Liturgies of Holy Week especially in the Paschal Triduum. These are the three days Jesus referred to when he said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” (John 2:14) These three days are the very heart of Lent and of the whole Liturgical Year.
Our journey of faith is firmly rooted in an historical encounter. God has revealed himself to us in time and history through persons and events. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, has shown us what it means to walk the way of salvation, and has invited us to walk that same path, to share in the mystery of his life, death and resurrection. The Liturgy is for us both a celebration of those events and an invitation to take these past events, make them present, and let that experience influence our future. Such is the timeless power of the Liturgy. A bird’s eye view of the Liturgy of Holy Week will help us to participate in it more actively and more intelligently.
PALM SUNDAY: We read in the Gospel that the people went outside the gates of Jerusalem to welcome our Lord by carpeting his path with palm branches and singing, “Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Then just five days later, they were crying out, “Crucify him, crucify him! “So passes the glory of the world.” Yet how many wonderful things are left undone because of the fear of what some fickle, fallible, sinful human being may say or think about what I do or say? On the other hand how many foolish things are done to gain their praise and esteem? The palms we bless today can be a constant reminder of these important truths if we put the blessed palm above the crucifix in our home.
THE PASCHAL TRIDUUM
HOLY THURSDAY EVENING: On this day our Lord instituted the Eucharist. At the Last Supper he prepared the Sacrifice-Meal that would unite his members to himself and to one another through the ages. So we gather in spirit with the Apostles to receive from Jesus his Body and Blood as it were for the first time. Hence all of the hosts for Communion are freshly consecrated. Enough hosts are also consecrated for tomorrow for there will be no Mass on Good Friday, there is only a Communion Service.
There is a solemn Mass. All of the bells are rung at the Gloria and they will not be rung again until the Easter Mass. The Celebrant, after the homily, will wash the feet of twelve of the parishioners as our Lord washed the feet of his twelve apostles. After the Mass there is a procession with the Eucharist through the Church to the side altar suitably decorated where it will remain until tomorrow’s service. There will be individual adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament until midnight. Since the Paschal Triduum is all of one piece there will be no dismissal tonight and no entrance rite or dismissal on Good Friday.
GOOD FRIDAY AFTERNOON: There are three parts: LITURGY OF THE WORD. The Celebrants prostrate in front of the altar. There is a prayer, reading, response, and another reading. Then the Passion according to the Gospel of John is read and is followed by a short homily and the General Intercessions. VENERATION OF THE CROSS: The unveiling of the cross by the Celebrant is followed by individual veneration. Then there is the COMMUNION SERVICE: The altar is prepared and the hosts consecrated yesterday are brought to the altar. The prayer Our Father is said, Communion is distributed and a final prayer is said. There is no dismissal. The altar is stripped.
SATURDAY EVENING: The Easter Vigil has four parts: THE SERVICE OF LIGHT First there is the lighting of the new fire, the preparation, blessing and lighting of the Easter Candle which is a symbol of Christ the light of the world. Then there is the procession and distribution of this light throughout the Church, and finally the chanting of the Easter song, the Exsultet.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD: The readings recall Salvation History: how God saved his people throughout history and then in the fullness of time, sent his only Son to be our redeemer. The number of readings may vary but there must be at least three. During the Gloria the bells, which have been silent since the Mass on Holy Thursday, are rung again. Then there is the Gospel and the homily.
LITURGY OF BAPTISM AND CONFIRMATION: The Catechumens, those not yet baptized, and the Candidates, those who are baptized and are seeking full communion with the Church, are introduced. The introduction is followed by the Litany of the Saints. Then there is the blessing of the baptismal water, the renunciation and profession of faith, and Baptism of the Catechumens. The Congregation then renews their baptismal promises and is sprinkled with the Easter water. Then there is the Rite of Reception of the Candidates into full communion with the Church and the Confirmation of both Catechumens and Candidates.
LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Mass continues as usual and the Catechumens and the Candidates receive their First Holy Communion. The rest of the congregation also receive Communion and the Mass ends with Alleluia! Alleluia! We have spent 40 days of Lent preparing for Easter and now we will spend 50 days of Eastertide celebrating it.
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