Today is called both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday, and this marks the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week is an especially significant time during the liturgical year; it 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. Given the significance of this week, let me share with you the Holy Week schedule and invite you personally to attend the Holy Week services. Please keep in mind that Triduum is one continuous service which begins on Holy Thursday and ends at the Easter Vigil, Holy Saturday.
The Holy Thursday service on March 29th 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, March 30th, 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 is on Saturday, March 31st 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: the Service of Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Service of Light: At the beginning of the service, the atmosphere inside the church is very quiet, the holy water fonts are empty, the lights are extinguished, and the tabernacle is empty. The darkness reminds us of the need for Light, Jesus, the Light of the World. The Vigil service will begin in front of the church. A new fire is blessed and lit. The Paschal candle is then carried in a procession through the church, with the deacon lifting the candle at three different locations, 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 Paschal candle until the whole church is alight. The Paschal candle symbolizes Christ and represents the resurrection of our 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). These readings help us to meditate on the wondrous things God has done 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 one non-baptized adult (Catechumen): Melissa Ann Cerda; four non-baptized children (Catechumens): Britney Borja, Allison Hoffelt, Lauren Lampley and Adrian Castillo. For the Celebration of Reception, we have one baptized Catholic adult, David Castro and for Profession of Faith, we have one baptized Christian adult, Mathew Alan Adcock. 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 concludes with a solemn blessing and the glorious, “Alleluia, Alleluia.” Although the Easter Vigil service is little 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 personally invite you to participate in this week’s special liturgy and deepen your love and faith in Jesus who offered His life on the cross so that we may have a full and everlasting life.