Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday; with this we begin Holy Week. This is the beginning of an important week, which combines contrasting moments of glory and suffering; therefore, the Church invites us to spend this week prayerfully in order to understand Jesus’ suffering, to experience His pain, and to thank him for His love – Love that led him to the Cross. As this is an important week, let me share the Holy Week services schedule with you and personally invite you to attend the Holy Week services. Please remember that Triduum is one continuous service which begins on Holy Thursday and ends at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.
The Holy Thursday (April 13th) service is at 7:00 pm; this service will be followed by prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament until 10:00 pm in the parish hall. We will have outdoor Stations of the Cross on Good Friday (April 14th) at 12:00 noon. The Celebration of the Passion of our Lord is at 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
The climax of the Easter celebration is the Easter Vigil service, which will be conducted on Saturday (April 15th) at 8:00 pm. Let me briefly highlight the spirituality and rich symbolism of the Easter Vigil service. The Vigil is divided into four parts: Service of Light, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of Baptism, and Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Service of Light: At the beginning of the service, the atmosphere inside the church is different: it is very quiet, the holy water fonts are empty, the lights are extinguished, and the tabernacle is empty. The darkness reminds us of our need for Light, Jesus, in our life. The Vigil service begins outside the church, in the Saint Vincent de Paul parking lot. A new fire is lit and blessed. The Paschal candle is then carried in a procession through the church, with the deacon lifting the candle at three different times, singing: “The Light of Christ.” The congregation sings in reply each time: “Thanks be to God.” After the second intonation, everyone lights their candle from the Easter candle until the whole church is alight. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World. This candle represents the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the presence of Jesus, the light in our lives. Next follows the glorious Easter song of the Catholic Church: the Exultant, or, Easter Proclamation. It is an ancient hymn which will be sung over the Easter candle by Suzanne Kennedy, our music director.
Liturgy of the Word: Nine readings are provided for the Vigil—seven from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. Not all are required to be
read due to time constraints, but at least three Old Testament readings must be read, including Exodus 14 and two New Testament readings (the Epistle and the Gospel) are read. These readings help us to meditate on the wonderful works of God for his people since the beginning of creation to redemption and until today.
Liturgy of Baptism: During this time, the water is blessed and new members are brought into the Church through baptism. This year we have three non-baptized adults (Catechumens): Rita Medrano, Nadia Opalek, and Suzanne Treanor; six non-baptized children (Catechumens): Gabriel Ballard, Jaden Borja, Adrian Espinoza, Aaliya Gibson, Damion Gibson and Faustino Thompson. For the Celebration of Reception, we have two baptized Catholic adults, Felix Guieb, Jr. and Gabriela Ramos. Let us keep them all in our prayers so that they may continue to walk in the light of Christ. This part of the liturgy also includes the Litany of the Saints. Afterwards, the faithful are blessed with newly blessed holy water, and then the congregation renews their own baptismal promises. This enables us to understand the foundation of our faith and open our hearts to God’s grace.
Liturgy of the Eucharist: The Mass resumes with the special prayers recited during the Eucharistic Prayer. The whole Church is called to join at the sacrificial table that Christ prepared for us through his death and resurrection. The Mass ends with the glorious, “Alleluia, Alleluia.”
Although the Easter Vigil service is longer than the usual Sunday Mass, it is significant, as it helps us understand and recall the salvific plan of God. As your pastor, I invite you to participate in this week’s special liturgy and deepen your relationship with God, increase your faith, and strengthen your lives as followers of Jesus.