4/9/12

Easter Monday Morning Quarterback: Holy Week!

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Here are some thoughts and reflections still with me as Holy Week 2012 becomes history and this Easter's season of 50 days stretches before us.

- My living room window looks out on Monument Square and my parish church across the green.  Through Lent I noticed the lights on later than usual as our choir rehearsed for Holy Week: it's good to know how generously our music ministry gives of its time for the praise and prayer of God's people...

- On Palm Sunday morning, a "chorus" of 15 high school students helped two adult lectors and me proclaim the Passion at the 9:30 and 11:30 liturgies.  It was a grace for these students to take up this ministry and a blessing for all who heard them: neither the young folks nor the parish will soon forget the reverence with which they told the story of Jesus' suffering and death...

- Our closing music at all the Palm Sunday liturgies is something we've done for several years.  At the cantor's direction, the whole assembly, with only the syllable, "Oh..." hums the well known, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?  Standing at the doors of the church as people were leaving, it was a blessing to see how that musical experience tended to hush the usual chatter of people on their way out the door...
 
- On Wednesdays in Lent, all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston were open for confessions from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in the program, The Light Is On For You.  The first week didn't find many takers, but the last two Wednesday nights saw a steady stream of penitents and I was grateful to have another priest helping on Wednesday of Holy Week when both of us were kept busy the whole hour and a half.  Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you of all your sins...

- On Wednesday of Holy Week I posted the last in my daily Lenten series, Praying 10 Minutes a Day.  These posts were well received by many and I know that working on it day to day was an important part of my own prayer and Lenten discipline.  Of course, the end of Lent is no reason not to continue to set apart at least 10 minutes a day, to be still... and to know that God is near...

- On Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings, my generous sacristan and her helpers made ready the sanctuary for our prayer for the year's most solemn celebrations.  So much to do, not very much time to do it, and yet so beautifully done!  I sometimes wonder if the hundreds and hundreds of worshipers who come to pray in Holy Week understand how much work goes into preparing each day's environment for prayer.  Every pastor knows how crucial is the work of those who work so selflessly behind the scenes...

- As the entrance song began for the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, I was standing with the processional party in the gathering space waiting to enter.  "And so it begins, again..." I prayed as the Cross bearer led us in.  What we celebrate in these three days, I thought, is what has shaped my life as a human being, as a priest, all these years...  Praise God from whom all blessings flow...

- Our Mandatum (foot washing) begins with the priest and deacons and then any who come forward are invited to have their feet washed and to wash the feet of the person behind them in line.  In some cases, someone washes a stranger' feet, or perhaps a friend's feet...  in other instances a sister washes her little brother's feet... a husband washes his wife's feet... About 45 folks participated in this but the eyes of all who witnessed this sacramental were blessed as well...  So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do...

- As I was leaving the church after the Holy Thursday liturgy, I looked into the sanctuary to see those who were keeping watch with Jesus, in prayer, before the reserved Sacrament.  I saw before the temporary tabernacle a parishioner whose difficult story I'm privileged to know.  He was kneeling before the Lord in the Eucharist...  Unlike Peter, James and John, here was a brother who did not fall asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane...

- On Good Friday we offer a children's service at 3:00 in the afternoon.  While prepared with children in mind, their parents and many of our elder parishioners come to this time of prayer.  We proclaim the Passion from a children's lectionary.  After a homily reminding youngsters of how Jesus was teased, mocked, left out, bad-mouthed and bullied by others, we sing a simple version of the day's solemn intercessions.  Two young men then processed in with a large Cross for veneration.  It was a moment of grace to see young and old alike come forward at this time to venerate.  I invited the children to bow, genuflect, touch, kiss or embrace the Cross.  One little guy with special needs, about 7 years old, came forward, stood before the Cross and with great panache, one hand at his waist, the other at his back, bowed to Jesus' Cross, just as he might bow to his King...  Tears are a blessing at such a moment and I was very blessed, indeed...

- At our Good Friday liturgy, held in the evening, I proclaim the Passion in a darkened church with just enough light for illuminating the large cross over the altar.  As I sometimes do at this liturgy, my homily was something of a prayer, addressed to the Crucified.  At this midpoint in the Triduum we find ourselves at the foot of Jesus' Cross and it seems just the time to speak to him who hung on this saving Tree for our sakes...

- Our veneration of the Cross takes some time.  We have a very large wooden Cross which is held in place by two of the bearers who processed it in.  There is no hurrying about this action: each one approaching the Cross approaches to venerate while those still in line offer those ahead the time and space to venerate with devotion and reverence...  From the presider's chair I have a view from behind the Cross to those coming to venerate...  I don't know all but I do know many of the stories of those who come to this Cross and what they might bringing to the foot of their Savior's suffering...  Again, it's a blessing, a grace to witness such faith...

- For Communion at the Good Friday liturgy we always sing, Now We Remain, with its refrain, We hold the death of the Lord, deep in our hearts, living now we remain with Jesus the Christ...  There have been times when I've argued for the more ancient practice of not offering Communion on Good Friday but this song helps me understand the wisdom of what the ritual asks of and offers us...

- Leaving the church around noon time on Saturday, after it's been prepared for the Vigil, I find my heart and spirit already moving into Easter joy!    I've prepared the candle, smelled the lilies and feasted on the beauty of the sanctuary prepared for Vigil prayer: that's too much paschal stimulation to avoid having my heart anticipate what my nose and eyes have shown me!  Final preparations for the presider's "book" for the Vigil and printing out my homily - finally completed as the sky begins to settle into dusk...

- A great fire!  And the parishioner who's prepared this fire for at least the last 18 years had done an outstanding job: it burned quickly and with great flame and heat!  So many gathered outdoors to hear the invitation to celebrate Christ our Passover...  so many being funneled by the church doors into the sanctuary where we sang the praise of the Paschal pillar of fire the Candle is...  A feast of readings, beautifully proclaimed...  A feast of psalms in various tempi, style and feel... a people settling in and soaking up the Word of God in all its splendor...

- After the Vigil I learned that one family had come with three young children who were up late and understandably slept through most of the readings.  When it came time for the Alleluia and for opening up and unfurling our Alleluia banner, "interred" on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, mom and dad woke the kids because they'd been waiting for this all through Lent and came to the Vigil for this moment...

- Two men, Dave and Matt, were with us at the Vigil, waiting for sacraments: Dave, to complete his initiation as a Catholic through Confirmation and Eucharist; and Matt to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church through a profession of faith, Confirmation and Eucharist.  Witnesses testified to their readiness; hands were laid on their heads; the Chrism flowed rather freely; and Dave and Matt received the gift of the Holy Spirit...  Moments later, with their wives, they brought forward the bread and wine for the Eucharist in which they would be one with us for the first time in Communion...  What a joy it was to meet Dave and Matt at the head of the aisle and to say, The Body of Christ! And for them to receive and to take up the cup of salvation, the Blood of Christ!

- Standing in front of my bathroom mirror on Easter morning, ready to shave, I took a deep breath to begin the day and smelled the unmistakable perfume of Chrism still on my face from embracing Dave and Matt the night before.  (Did I mention that the Chrism had flowed freely?)  It was a delightful moment to be reminded so early in the day of the joy of the previous night...

- Thanks be to God, two priests who often celebrate a Mass here on weekends were both available to help on Easter morning.  I was in church, of course, to meet and greet and offer my pastor's Easter salutation at the end of Mass but I was grateful not to face a schedule of three Masses after the 3 hour Vigil the night before!

- We had no baptisms at the Vigil but I was pleased to baptize little Owen Daniel at the 11:30 Mass. He was beautiful and took to the waters of our immersion font quite well!  While he was dressed in his Easter garment, I shared his baptismal water with the assembly, sprinkling with a branch of arbor vitae that holds a nice supply of blessing to moisten God's people, squeezed into every nook and cranny of the church - and out the doors, front and back!

- Then to my recliner for a nap before joining a family in the parish for a delicious Easter dinner...

I'm sure other thoughts will come to mind but before even these slip from my memory, I wanted to share them with you.  

And a question: 
At  Easter dinner I was trading Triduum tales with another guest from another parish.  She mentioned that her parish had a different presider for each night of the Triduum.  Hmm...  It's been 18 years since I've been stationed with another priest and for 18 years I've been presiding and preaching at all three nights of the Triduum.  After nearly two decades of such experience, it's hard for me to imagine dividing up the Triduum among several priests in this fashion.

If we understand the Triduum to be one act of worship, celebrated in three installments over three days, it seems to make a lot of sense that one priest would minister on all three days.  It would be interesting to hear from others, including priests, on their experience and views on this question.


 

     
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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Only wish I could have been in Concord for all these nights. Great summation and thanks Austin.

a friend said...

I think that the people of Holy Family Parish in Concord were very blessed to have one very special priest presiding at all three celebrations of the Triduum-
I think it helps with continuity and...
the very important feeling of trust and faith in someone who is always there- not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally...

Praise God for whom all blessings flow...
I pray always that God bless you and protect you...

a friend said...

I just wanted to acknowledge my mistake in what I said at the end of my comment-
I know it is something you often say, so I am sure you noticed my mistake-
I should have said, Praise God FROM whom all blessings flow-

(but, thinking about it now, maybe
FOR works too- ?)

sorry...

Chuck In Seattle said...

I agree: it's hard to imagine a different presider for each of the Triduum liturgies. If there's ever an event where the pastor should preside, it's the 3 Triduum liturgies.

But, I can imagine using a variety of preachers, lay and ordained. Like your description of seeing people who understand the Passion and death of Jesus embracing the cross, we typically ask a lay person who knows something about pain and suffering to preach on Good Friday. Our diocese has a long (and welcomed) tradition of lay preachers. This year it was from a woman whose infant son died in a tragic accident this past year. Or just wise elders in our parish.

In short, I can't imagine why the pastor wouldn't be presiding

Anonymous said...

In concelebrated Masses, the Eucharistic Prayer may be "shared"...

Anonymous said...

Fr Austin
Thank you for ALL your great works! I agree with you - same priest presiding - as is in our parish in the midwest.