There is more to come
By Father James Shafer
I would imagine that most church-attending Catholics experience Holy Week by participating in Mass on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord and again on Easter Sunday. My purpose in writing this brief article is to encourage all to discover the treasure trove between those two Sundays.
The Church refers to it as the Sacred Paschal Triduum, the Three Days. It includes our celebrations of Thursday of the Lord’s Supper, the Passion of the Lord, and the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night or as we commonly refer to them … Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.
I encourage all of you to attend your parish celebrations of these great and holiest of all days. The reason? It is an intimate walk with the Lord Jesus during the most important days of His life, His death and resurrection, the heart of our faith and our life with Him through our Baptism. (Nota Bene: I am not treating the Chrism Mass here. It is celebrated Monday and Tuesday of this holiest of all weeks in both South Bend and Fort Wayne. Priests renew their bond with the bishop and Church in their Priesthood. And, of course, bishop blesses the new oils we use throughout the year in various sacramental celebrations. Once you attend, you may want to put it on your yearly calendar!)
So, back to the intimate walk with the Lord, so fitting for a disciple. On Holy Thursday we join together in the evening to remember His gathering with His small community to pray the Passover feast. It was a sacred meal, calling its participants to remember God’s formation of them as His beloved people. In our celebration we remember His awesome love for us in forming us as a Eucharistic people … the gift of His Body and Blood. And we remember what He taught us on that holy night when He washed the feet of His disciples, that sharing in His Eucharist would lead us to lives of serving others. Then we depart in silence … with Him… to a night of prayer in Gethsemane … in our place of reposition … and we pray with His suffering approaching … as if there is more to come … in silence.
On Friday, a day we name Good Friday, a day of fast and abstinence from meat, our Paschal fast, we begin once more … in silence. As the priest prostrates himself as Jesus did in Gethsemane, we kneel and pray silently as we prepare to listen to the Passion of the Lord … we venerate His Holy Cross by a touch, or kiss, or bow or genuflection as we place there on the Cross our own brokenness, pains, losses and burdens, our needs that we want to unite to Him … His Passion, His Cross and now His Eucharist, as we receive Holy Communion. This is the only day of the year that our Church does not celebrate Mass, as the Eucharist we receive is from the previous night, the Lord’s Supper. After Holy Communion, we depart as we began, in silence, as if it is not over even though He has died for us … we fast, we are silent, we ponder, we wait at the tomb … as if there is more to come … in silence.
And so it is the Vigil, we keep our Paschal fast, and then in the silence of our evening, we begin once more by speaking the blessing of a new fire, a new Light to shine in the darkness. A beautiful song of praise is sung to Christ our Light, we listen to an expanded Liturgy of the Word that recalls our salvation history, we sing the A-l-l-e-l-u-i-a once again. Next we celebrate our new and deeper life in Christ by blessing new water, renewing our baptismal promises, welcoming new members in Baptism and full communion. A liturgy of Light, an expanded liturgy of the Word and a liturgy of Baptism are followed by the liturgy of the Eucharist. His Resurrection has followed His Death. He is living in our midst.
We have walked with Him through His Sacred Paschal Triduum, the Three Days, almost as if they were one long event in parts spread out over three days. Framed by the opening hymn of Holy Thursday and the concluding hymn of the Easter Vigil, we have intimately shared His suffering, death and resurrection, proceeding from silence to silence, reflecting on Him, on what His Divine Love for us truly means. This is Love, the holiest of all weeks, the week of Priesthood and Holy Eucharist, the week of dying and rising, the week of Baptism and renewed life in Christ. Holy Week … enjoy not only the beginning and end, but also the intimate days between. Your heart and soul truly will be blessed by your presence with His Presence. How awesome is this gift to our Catholic faith!
Father James Shafer is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne.
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