Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter
The sights and sounds of Holy Week are here again. They are so familiar, yet so necessary to re-visit each year. The Sacred Triduum begins on Holy Thursday. Culturally, many people are familiar with the Last Supper from the painting by Leonardo DaVinci . Religiously, the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper embraces this institution of the Eucharist and much more.
The Gospel reading for Holy Thursday is of when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples (Jn. 13: 1-15). It is the Church’s message to us that Service is the way for us to follow Christ. As Jesus served His apostles, we are to serve one another. To be an example of service to his congregation, the priest in a symbolic ceremony, washes the feet of twelve members of his congregation.
Also on Holy Thursday, the holy oils, recently blessed by the bishop, are presented to the parish. These oils will be used throughout the year to anoint the sick, bless the newly baptized, and confirm others.
As the Mass ends, Jesus in the Sacred Bread is carried to a place of rest in a solemn procession of the congregation. This is symbolic of Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane following the Last Supper.
Good Friday at 3 p.m. commemorates, with Stations of the Cross, the carrying of the cross and many of the events associated with the journey to the crucifixion – the help from Simon of Cyrene, the wiping of His face by St. Veronica and His leaving of the miraculous image on her veil, the falling under the weight of the cross three times, to the crucifixion and, finally, removal from the cross. Good Friday evening services include Veneration of the Cross, prayers for the whole world, and a second reading of the Passion.
The Holy Saturday Easter Vigil begins as darkness falls. The church is in darkness, symbolic of Christ in the Tomb. A new fire is started outdoors and all gather and light their individual candles from the Pascal, or Easter, candle. The Church is dimly lit by our hope and our candles, then as the reading of the resurrection is proclaimed, and the Gloria prayer sung, the lights come on, blazing with the understanding that Christ is Risen!
Baptisms, Confirmations, and Reception of the Eucharist follow as the Christian community rejoices.
As Easter comes I wish all Christians a Happy Easter. In particular, I want to remember the Greek Orthodox members of our community, whose celebration of Easter coincides with the western Easter this year.