The Liturgies of Holy Week lead us into Easter
You may recall that in last month's column, I encouraged all of us to enter into the time of Lent as an opportunity to respond to God's grace and undertake some spiritual spring cleaning. I hope your Lenten journey has gone well thus far and that your house is in better spiritual order, so to speak.
As we make our way to the conclusion of the season of Lent, I encourage you to take another step to make the celebration of the approaching season of Easter all the more fruitful. I encourage you to set aside the time to attend the liturgies of Holy Week as a way of entering more deeply into the great joys of Easter. The liturgies of Holy Week, especially those of the Triduum – the "Three Days" of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil – help us to better understand the depth of Christ's love and sacrifice for us, and the great beauty of the mystery of his resurrection at Easter.
There are two liturgies on Holy Thursday that help lead us toward Easter. The first is the Chrism Mass, which is normally celebrated at St. Mary Cathedral in Lansing on Holy Thursday morning. This beautiful celebration gathers folks from around our diocese at our "mother church" for a Mass which focuses on the blessing and consecration of the holy oils that are to be used in our sacramental celebrations in the year ahead. In the context of this Mass, the priests of our diocese also renew their priestly commitment to live in prayerful service to the people of our diocese.
Holy Thursday evening sees the celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper. This Mass helps us to focus on the mystery of selfless service and the eternal gift of the Eucharist that was given to us by Jesus in the Last Supper. The night concludes with an opportunity for quiet Eucharistic Adoration before everyone departs in silence in preparation for Good Friday.
Good Friday is a day of quiet reflection. The praying of the Stations of the Cross might be offered in addition to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion. These somber liturgies place the mystery of Christ's cross at the center of our focus. We recall how a weapon of terror becomes the Tree of Life. Following the reception of Communion, we depart in silence to spend time reflecting on the depth and power of Christ's love for each of us.
Holy Saturday marks a time of quiet Easter preparation in our homes and in our parish churches. Many parishes offer the blessing of Easter food – the great variety of delicious foods and baked goods that will form the centerpiece of our family meals on Easter Sunday. The day culminates in the celebration of the Easter Vigil. This liturgy is the highlight of our Christian year, as we tell the story of salvation and welcome our catechumens and candidates through the sacraments of initiation.
It is one thing for me to write about these liturgies. It is entirely more for all of us to experience them in our parish communities. In order for this to happen, make sure to be deliberate in setting aside the time to do so. Know that these liturgies may be a little longer than a "normal" Sunday Mass. They also provide a wonderful blend of music, words and actions that help us to truly understand and celebrate the depth and beauty of our faith.
If you have never participated in any of the liturgies of the Triduum, make a promise to take advantage of the opportunity to do so this year, and each year ahead. You won't regret it and it will make the beauty of the Easter Season all the more beautiful and meaningful. And so our journey in FAITH continues.