Where will you be on April 2nd, 3rd and 4th? These three days, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil are the core celebration of our faith, April 2 – 4. These three days determine the yearly cycle of the liturgical year. Every other feast we celebrate, every liturgical season we observe, and every Sunday flows out of the Paschal Triduum. These days are what give us our identity as followers of Christ, who was crucified, died, buried and rose from the dead on the third day. All that we believe as Catholic Christians and everything else that we do flows from what is commemorated in the Triduum.
On these three days, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil we ritually commemorate the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Paschal Mystery. This is one three day liturgy, one continuous celebration. Each one is intimately connected with the other; they are not stand alone celebrations. We are not re-enacting some life drama, but rather we commemorate the heart of our faith. We know the end of the story, but we need to tell the story, hear the story and live the story each year.
On Holy Thursday we receive the sacred oils blessed at the Chrism Mass on March 24th by Bishop McGrath, the oil of catechumens and Sacred Chrism will be used in the sacraments of initiation, the oil of the sick will be used throughout the year for the Anointing of the Sick. We hear how Jesus served his disciples by girding himself with a towel and served them by washing their feet. We in turn have the opportunity to serve one another by washing feet, celebrate Eucharist and then begin our prayer vigil. There is no concluding rite and dismissal at the end of Holy Thursday, rather we go in procession with the Eucharist to a place of reposition, for worship, adoration and prayer until we gather together again the next night to venerate the Cross, hear the Passion according to John’s Gospel and pray for specific needs of our world and church, and share in a communion rite. Again there is no dismissal, no blessing because we quietly exit the church until we pick up and continue the next night entering into the Easter Vigil with the lighting of the new fire, singing the Lord’s praises, and listening to the word proclaimed. Normally, we initiate new members into the church, into Christ through Baptism and Confirmation. This year we have no one to receive into the church so we renew our own Baptism by professing our faith and then go to the baptismal font to bless ourselves. Finally, we come to the altar table to celebrate the risen life of the Lord in Eucharist and go forth with a song of joy and dismissed with an Easter blessing.
The focus of each night is simply this: Christ is our salvation. Through him and through his cross we are saved and made free! These are our three high holy days, the-don’t-miss-it, once a year commemoration of who we are and what we celebrate. Christ, the Savior invites you to worship on each of these special days. I hope and pray that you will be here at Saint Anthony Church on these three nights. Happy Holy Week!
Blessings, Father Laary