Today is Palm Sunday; Jesus triumphantly enters the city of Jerusalem as a victorious king. It is also known as Passion Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week. This week is significant as it sees the combination of contrasting moments of suffering and glory, death and resurrection. The Church, therefore, invites us to spend this week prayerfully to understand Jesus’ suffering, to experience His passion, and thank him for His love, love that led him to the Cross. Because it is an important week for us, let me share with you the Holy Week services schedule here at Santa Sophia and personally invite you to attend these 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 18th) service begins 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 19th) 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 20th) 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 lives. The Vigil service begins outside the church, in front of Mary’s statue, in the parking lot. A new fire is lit and blessed. The Paschal candle is lit with the new fire and then carried in a procession through the church. By lifting the candle at three different times, the deacon sings: “The Light of Christ.” The congregation responds singing: “Thanks be to God.” After the second intonation, everyone lights their candles 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 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 readings 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 wonderful works of God for His people from 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 two non-baptized adults (Catechumens): Jolene Marie Bryant and Rachell Marie Suda; five non-baptized children (Catechumens): Lily Leach, Alissa Montes, Leila Ramirez, Orion Vega and Azariah Vega. For the Celebration of Reception, we have one baptized adult, James Michael Josephson. Let us keep all of these Catechumens and Candidate 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 baptismal promises. This enables us to understand the foundation of our faith and to 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 intonation of “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.
Holy Week is an important week, therefore, 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.