Holy Week 2019
The celebrations of Holy Week help us to focus on the fact that “the days of his saving Passion and glorious Resurrection are approaching” (Preface II of the Passion of the Lord, Roman Missal). Here is a brief overview of the many celebrations that occur during Holy Week:
Holy Week begins with the celebration of Palm Sunday of the Passion of The Lord. Palm branches are ancient symbols of hope, victory and new life, so they are a part of our Palm Sunday celebration. The gospel proclaimed on Palm Sunday celebrates the Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. Together we too, will carry palm branches, and join in the proclamation of the gospel.
The Chrism Mass is celebrated on Tuesday at the cathedral in Lafayette. During this Mass, the holy oils that will be used throughout the coming year are blessed by the bishop. All the priests of the diocese also renew publicly their priestly promises.
On Wednesday, we gather together for our Tenebrae Service at 8:30pm. The term Tenebrae means “darkness” in Latin. It refers to the public praying of the Liturgy of the Hours. It consists of prayers, readings, music and candles that will be extinguished throughout the service.
The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum— from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery (Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection). The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil. The liturgical services that take place during the Triduum are The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion and The Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord.
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday) commemorates the institution of Eucharist and the priesthood, as well as Jesus’ command to love and serve one another. During this Mass, Fr Ted will receive the Holy Oils that were blessed by Bishop Doherty. The connection between the Eucharist and living a life of service is ritualized by the Washing of Feet. The Ceremonial of Bishops (CB) sets the context in no. 297: “This Mass is, first of all, the memorial of the institution of the Eucharist. It is also the memorial of the institution of the priesthood, by which Christ’s mission and sacrifice are perpetuated in the world. In addition, this Mass is the memorial of that love by which the Lord loved us even to death” (CB # 297).
During this Mass of the Lord’s Supper Fr Ted will consecrate enough hosts for this Mass and also enough for the following day’s celebration, since the Passion of the Lord is the only day in the liturgical year where a Mass is not to be celebrated.
Following Communion, the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament begins with a procession to the Day Chapel. All present are part of this procession as we prepare to spend a period of time with The Lord in adoration until 12 midnight. There is no formal or specific dismissal to the Mass on this night, emphasizing that the liturgies of the Sacred Paschal Triduum are actually one continuous liturgy that spans over three days.
On Good Friday (Friday of the Passion of the Lord) we gather together to prayerfully recall the Death of Jesus. Just as the Holy Thursday Liturgy had no formal ending, The Good Friday service has no formal beginning, offering us a unity between both celebrations. The service includes the Proclamation of the Passion, the Adoration of the Holy Cross, and a Communion service.
When the service does begin, it happens with the clergy prostrating themselves on the floor of the sanctuary while the rest of the assembly kneels. It is very striking with a noticeable silence to help us remember what we are celebrating.
The Liturgy of the Word takes place with the Proclamation of the Lord’s Passion. Following the homily, the Solemn Intercessions are proclaimed. These ten intercessions reveal the universality of our prayer, showing how important it is for the Church to spend an abundance of time pleading for the well-being of the entire world.
The next part of the Good Friday service is The Adoration of the Holy Cross. The Church provides us the opportunity to show our sign of reverence to the cross with a simple genuflection, a kiss, a touch of the wood of the cross or a bow towards the cross. When adoration is finished, the distribution of Holy Communion begins.
The liturgy ends as simply as it began. There is a brief dismissal, but no procession, giving everyone an opportunity to continue adoring the cross for as long as desired.
Holy Saturday morning is a time for the Church to wait at the Lord’s tomb as we pray, fast and mediate on His Passion and Death as we await His Resurrection. We celebrate Morning Prayer with the Elect as they continue preparing for the Easter sacraments. We do not celebrate Mass during the day.
The climax of the Sacred Paschal Triduum, the Easter Vigil, begins after darkness has fallen. St. Augustine calls the Easter Vigil “The mother of all Vigils.” The Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year (UNLY) teaches “The Sacred Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord shines forth as the high point of the entire liturgical year (UNLY # 18). The Triduum ranks highest among the celebrations of the liturgical year.
The four parts of the Easter Vigil take us through a gradual unfolding of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The First Part is the Solemn Beginning of the Vigil or Lucernarium. Outside on the plaza, we stand by the blazing fire for the Blessing on the Fire and the Preparation of the Candle. This is followed by the Liturgy of the Word which reminds us how God is revealing to us His plan for salvation history. Next is the Baptismal Liturgy, which draws the elect through the waters of baptism into the promise of eternal life. We the faithful also renew our own baptismal promises. The newly baptized and those who are making a Profession of Faith will also celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the climax of the Easter Vigil celebration. The newly initiated join for the first time with the faithful the receiving of The Lord’s Body and Blood. Together we experience the presence of the Risen Lord within our midst.
On Easter Sunday, we renew our baptismal promises and are sprinkled with Holy Water to once again renew and refresh us. Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (EG) calls us to be an Alleluia people who evangelize with joy and connect our liturgy with our life. The Holy Father teaches “Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness” (EG # 24).
Celebrating each of these liturgies gives us an opportunity to enter into the mystery and presence of God each day as we experience the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.