David J. Conrad
The celebration of salvation as it has unfolded in history on three days, namely, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Paschal Vigil. Holy Thursday marks Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Good Friday focuses on the Passion and Death of Jesus. The Paschal Vigil, held either late on Saturday evening or in the pre-dawn hours of Easter Sunday, initiates the joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection. The Triduum is the focal point of the Church year.
Stations of the Cross
A series of 14 meditations on Christ’s journey from His condemnation by Pilate to His burial in the tomb. They can be prayed individually or as a group. It is thought that the Stations originated as a way for those unable to visit Jerusalem to walk the path to Jesus’ crucifixion in a journey of prayer. Our parish will pray the Stations together at Noon on Good Friday in the church.
Used in the Old Testament to anoint priests, prophets and kings and in the time of Jesus to anoint the sick, holy oils have been consistently used by the Church in the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick. There are three oils that are blessed on Holy Thursday morning by the bishop at the cathedral and presented to each parish that evening at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper: the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and the Sacred Chrism. The first two are made of pure olive oil; the last has a perfume, balsam, added to it. When not in use, the oils are kept in the ambry, located on the back wall of our church near the Baptistery.
Lit from the new fire and blessed at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, it is an ancient symbol of our risen Savior. Fire is an image of the love and power of God’s Spirit. The candle, lit from this fire, tells us that Jesus is the presence of God’s love in the world. At the Vigil, it is carried through the church by a deacon or priest, who solemnly stops three times before reaching the altar – each time singing, “Light of Christ." Five grains of incense, encased within five wax nails – representing Christ’s wounds – are placed on the cross of the candle. The year the candle was blessed for use is noted, as well as the two Greek letters – Α (Alpha), and Ω (Omega) – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. All creation finds its beginning and end in Christ (cf. John 1:3, Revelation 22:13).
Water which is blessed by a priest and used for various blessings, the Rite of Sprinkling at Sunday Mass, and for Baptismal renewal (by dipping one’s fingers in the holy water and making the sign of the cross) upon entering church. New holy water is blessed at the Paschal Vigil for use during the Easter season. Water is a sign of life and cleanliness; its use in Baptism and the renewal of our Baptismal vows remind us of the vital nature of our Christian calling and responsibilities.
The celebrant of the Liturgies of Holy Week wears vestments of various colors. On Passion (Palm) Sunday and Good Friday, red vestments are worn to remind us of the blood Christ shed for our salvation. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week purple will be worn as a reminder of the final days of penitence available to us before we enter the Triduum celebrations. White will be worn on Holy Thursday, the Paschal Vigil Saturday evening, and then during the entire Easter season, for white is the color of festivity and joy.
Aromatic gum or resin, in granulated or powdered form, which gives off a fragrant smoke when it is burned. The oldest liturgical use of incense was at the reading of the Gospel, first as an honor to Christ the Lord, and then as an image of the fragrance of His teaching. Later the altar and the Eucharist were honored through the smoke of incense, for these too are signs of the Lord’s presence in the Mass. The incensing of the gifts on the altar, and after, the priest and congregation, reminds us that we are offering ourselves to God in sacrificial self-surrender. Also this smoke symbolizes our prayers rising to God.