Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, after the Consecration, we profess the Mystery of our Faith. In the third version of this acclamation we say, “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.” This is the Mystery at the heart of our Faith. This is the reason for our hope. These events which we recall and celebrate every time we come together for worship are the events we enter into with special solemnity in this holy week ahead. There are no more important days in our entire church year. There are no more graced moments in the life of the Church.
The Season of Lent, our 40 days of penance and conversion, concludes on Thursday of Holy Week. Then the greatest Feast of the entire Church year begins on the evening of Holy Thursday. It is known as the Easter Triduum because it takes in three great days in which we celebrate the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. At this time the celebration of other Sacraments are limited so we as a Church can put all of our focus upon living this Feast.
On Holy Thursday evening we gather for the beautiful Mass of the Lord’s Supper. We commemorate the institution of the Eucharist as well as the Lord’s washing of the feet of his disciples. The Feast continues with Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. On this day we enter into Christ’s saving death. We fast and abstain from meat today and we are encouraged to continue the fast on Saturday as we recall Christ’s words; “When the bridegroom is taken away, then they will fast.” (Matt. 9:15)
On Holy Saturday we gather in the evening to wait in vigil for the celebration of the rising of Jesus from the tomb. As we wait by the light of our Easter fire we listen as the history of our Salvation is unfolded through the proclamation of the Scriptures. As the Easter Eucharist begins and our Alleluias ring out the saving work of Jesus will be accomplished before our eyes as our Catechumens die with Christ and rise to new life with him in the waters of Baptism. Others, already baptized, will be received into full communion in the Church.
The Easter Vigil is the most beautiful and the most holy celebration of our entire Church year. One thing the Vigil is not is brief. Traditionally it lasted until dawn. To gather in vigil means to wait in prayer. We should forget our watches and be on God’s time. Expect a good three and a half hours in which God will be very much in our midst. It takes about as long as a Pro Football game but not as long as a Superbowl. Following the Vigil will be a reception to welcome and congratulate our new members. Rest during the day and give the night to the Lord.
No words can describe the power and beauty of these celebrations! The only way one can know is to experience them. May God bless us all through our celebration of these holy days. May we all, along with our new members, come to know more deeply the wonder of our sharing in Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.