HOLY WEEK AND THE GREAT EASTER VIGIL
The Easter Triduum
The Easter Triduum, the “Three Days”, is the celebration of the Christian Passover. Just as our Jewish ancestors gathered annually to remember the events of their release from slavery in Egypt, so too, we gather to celebrate our Passover from death to life in Christ.
The Triduum is at the heart and soul of our Christian faith, commemorating the triumph of God's love over darkness and death. It’s the fullest ritual expression of what it means to be a Christian. In our reliving and remembering, we’re renewed and reborn along with the newly initiated members of our community.
In essence, the Triduum is one great festival that lasts for three days: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. As with all the great feasts of the Church, the celebration begins at dusk on Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday, the first full day of the Triduum, we gather to remember the Lord’s Passion and Death. Saturday is a day of quiet reflection on the Entombment of Christ as we wait, like the disciples, for news of the resurrection. And finally, on Saturday night we gather in vigil and hear the amazing news that Jesus Christ, our companion and brother, is not dead, but is risen from the grave.
The evening Mass on Holy Thursday is referred to as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is where the Church recalls the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper as well as the institution of the Priesthood, which took place the evening before Jesus was crucified.
After the homily, in the recalling of our Lord's command [Mandantum - meaning commandment], that we love one another, as He loved us. Jesus demonstrated this love by the washing the feet of the Apostles. The Church continues in this practice in the washing of the feet ceremony, where the priest washes the feet of others to signify his role as servant, just as Jesus did with his disciples. At this Mass, extra Hosts are consecrated which are to be used to at the Good Friday when no Mass is to be celebrated.
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday concludes with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the “altar of repose”, a place where the consecrated host is kept until GHood Friday. The taberbernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is normally reserved is now empty [see pictured Maundy Thursday]. Because of the Last Supper, Holy Thursday is a day especially given to adoration of the Eucharist; many parishes will have Eucharistic Adoration at the altar of repose.
Good Friday is a mandatory day of fasting and abstinence. This is the day of the crucifixion, the day Jesus died for the sins of the world. The parish altar looks very different on Good Friday, it is plain and bare. There is no consecrated Eucharist in the main altar of the Church; it was carried on Holy Thursday to the “altar of repose” to signify that on this day Jesus died. The candle by the tabernacle is blown out, and the tabernacle doors are left open to show it is empty. Jesus is gone. This is quite dramatic, highlighting Good Friday is a solemn day of prayer and mourning.
The Good Friday liturgy is very different from an of the other Church's liturgies. This liturgy contains within it three major parts: the Liturgy of the Word, Veneration of the Cross and, the Mass of the Pre-Sactified. At the Veneration of the Cross, the community processes and kneels before a cross and then proceeds to either touch or kiss the cross. Often the priest will begin the Veneration by prostrating in front of the cross. On this one day of the Church's year, a full Mass is not celebrated. Instead, the third part of the liturgy, the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified, uses the Blessed Sacrament which was consecrated at the Mass on Holy Thursday the night before.
The Great Easter Vigil
Easter is what we’ve all been waiting for. The 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent was in preparation for this day, when our hearts and souls can drink in deeply the culmination of the Pascal mystery: the Resurrection.
The Easter Vigil marks the end of the emptiness of Holy Saturday. The liturgy is held after nightfall on Holy Saturday, or before dawn on Easter Sunday, in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. The Easter Vigil is the first Mass of Easter. It is the most glorious, beautiful, and dramatic liturgy in the Church.
The liturgy is divided into four parts:
1) the liturgy of Light
2) the liturgy of the Word
3) the liturgy of Baptism
4) the liturgy of the Eucharist
The Liturgy of Light begins with the lighting of the new fire. The light of Christ overcoming the darkness of sin and death. The singing of the Exsultet, the ancient hymn of triumph and rejoicing, links this night of our Christian redemption to the Passover night of Israel’s redemption out of Egypt.
In the Second part of the liturgy, the [Liturgy of the Word], we listen to God's saving action in salvation history.
At the conclusion of the second part of the liturgy we move into the Third part of the Vigil; the Liturgy of Baptism. Christian baptism is a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, a dying to sin in order to be reborn in him, and the EasterVigil was from early Christian times a preferred occasion for baptism. It is a ﬁtting time when those who are already Christians may repeat with renewed commitment the promises of their own baptism, and strengthen their sense of incorporation into the royal and priestly ministry of the whole people of God. The Easter Gospel is proclaimed with all the joy and splendour that the church can ﬁnd.
The fourth and final stage of the Easter Vigil is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This is also the Mass where people who have being preparing for baptism are brought into full communion with the Church. Read more details about each part of the marvelous Easter Vigil here.
Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of solemnities’, just as the Eucharist is the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’. St. Athanasius calls Easter ‘the Great Sunday’ and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week ‘the Great Week’. The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to Him.
THE LITURGIES AT HOLY WEEK - 2018
March 25: 8:00pm Mass w/Procession of Palms
10:00pm Mass w/Procession of Palms
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in Holy Week
March 26-28 9:30am Mass
Thursday in Holy Week
March 29 9:30am Mass
THE EASTER TRIDUUM
March 29, 7:00pm Mass w/foot washing and the Altar of Repose
March 30, 12Noon Stations of the Cross
7:00pm Veneration of the Cross and the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified
THE GREAT EASTER VIGIL
March 31 5:00pm The First Mass of Easter
April 1, 9:30am the Second Mass of Easter