This is truly a reprise of a post from many years ago on my Yahoo! 360 blog. Unfortunately, I don’t want to go through all of those posts to find this so it will be a new post about the same topic.
Most people believe that Christmas is the pivotal holiday in the Christian year. It is true that without the birth of Christ, there would not be a religion of any sort called Christianity. Truthfully though, Christians are a people of the risen Christ, a people of the Christ that suffered the fate His Father foretold and not without human misgivings. Therefore, the most pivotal holiday and holy day in the Christian calendar is Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
As a Roman Catholic, the celebration of Christ rising begins on Palm Sunday. This past Sunday I attended Mass at Alumni Chapel on the campus of Niagara University. The service was beautiful. The celebration began with the blessing of the palms in the daily chapel area which is behind the altar. Everyone in the church went up there and then processed around the church with palms to return to their pews. This sharing of faith and action, though small and reserved for children in a lot of churches, was a true community procession.
Now that I am back home, I will attend Mass and other services throughout the Easter Triduum. We will, as a family, attend Holy Thursday Mass. This is a celebration of the Last Supper of Christ with his disciples. There will be a feet washing of twelve people by the parish preist to signify the fact that Christ humbled Himself to do the most humiliating of gestures for those who followed Him, hoping that we too will do for the least among us.
On Friday, there is Veneration of the Cross and communion. This occurs at 3 pm. In the Bible, the land was cast into darkness for three hours and most presume this began at noon. Growing up as an Episcopalian, we would have a three hour service from noon to three pm with various readings about the Passion, Crucifixion and Death of Christ. During the Veneration service, all are invited to come forward and venerate the cross as well as receive communion, though there is no consecration of hosts and wine on Friday.
Friday evening, it is the tradition at our church to have a Marian Stations of the Cross. Throughout Lent, Stations of the Cross are held on Friday evenings. Usually, these start at Station 1 - Jesus is condemned to death – and end with Station 14 - Jesus is laid in the tomb. With the Marian Stations, the process starts at Station 14 and goes backwards to Station 1. Each station’s meditations come from Mary’s point of view as the mother of Jesus.
Saturday will bring the Easter Vigil Mass. Early on Saturday, parishioners can bring their food to the church to be blessed should they desire to do so. The Easter Vigil Mass will begin in the dark with a fire outside the church doors. All in the church will have candles that will be lit from this fire. The Gloria and Alleluia will be sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent. Also, adult candidates for baptism, first eucharist and confirmation will be received into the church. This evening’s Mass and Rites of Initiation hold special meaning for me as I look back over the last 25 years of my own Catholic journey. It was 25 years ago this year that I became a Catholic as an adult.
Easter morning at our church will be a beautiful celebration of life. The children’s choir will sing. The church will be decorated with pastel balloons and the joy will be evident.