Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My Favorite Time of Year

This is my favorite week of the year. In the Catholic tradition we are celebrating Holy Week. Each day the liturgy is filled with symbolism and meaning and it spills out over the assembly in a way that transforms everyone with its power.

On Tuesday evening the Chrism Mass is held in the Cathedral of the diocese. AT this Mass the oils that are used throughout the year are blessed, and the Priests renew their commitment to service to the Church (meaning the people to whom they minister).

On Thursday evening we commemorate the Last Supper in a very meaningful way. The Washing of the Feet that Jesus did in the Gospel is played out on every altar around the world on this night. This reminds us that we are called to be a priestly people, but to be priestly means to be of service. This is also the night that altars around the world are stripped bare in preparation for Good Friday. Everything that adorns the altar is removed, every flower, every plant, even cloths and candles are taken away. The Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Tabernacle and the Altar light is extinguished.

The Assembly processes behind the priest who carries the Blessed Sacrament to its place of repose and wonderful old hymns are sung about how important the Eucharist is to us. We say goodbye. Some keep watch at the place of repose for hours into the night. This is one of my very favorite things to do.

On Good Friday simple ceremonies happen in the church. The Passion is read from the Gospel. We venerate the cross with words like "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which is hung our salvation." Christ dies this day: it is the only day in the church year when Mass is not said. No music, no adornment, absence is the key to this day.

On Easter Vigil we pray, we listen and we learn. We hear the story of salvation in reading and song and prayer. We sing out Glory to God! And the bells ring and the sound carries again through the church. At this Mass we welcome those who wish to join us at the Table of the Eucharist in our Catholic Tradition. We baptize, and confirm, and we share the Eucharist with our new members. Some of those who will join us this night have been on this journey for years. They are now home.

And then Easter Sunday arrives. Mass is full of music and worship and praise and thanksgiving. Our Father in Heaven has given us the greatest gift we could ever imagine. His Son died on the cross for our sins and on Easter we remember that He rose to new life, allowing us to rise with him to new life in heaven when our time here is through.

Even if I didn't work for the church I think I could live in church this week very happily. The sights and sounds and smells of the liturgy heighten every emotion. And at the end we celebrate our victory, freely given and ours to accept.

Blessed Triduum to you all.


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