Holy Thursday is known as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It is a beautiful celebration of the precious gift of the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith. Everything flows from the Eucharist and everything flows back to the Eucharist. That is why we are encouraged to enter into each celebration of the Holy Eucharist with “full, conscious, and active participation.” Do you need your batteries recharged in regard to your zeal for receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist? I invite you to prayerfully read chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. John’s message puts the Eucharist in proper perspective for us.
The other profound aspect of Holy Thursday is the reminder that we are called to live a life of service as is made evident in the washing of the feet. Christ has given us the mandate to love one another as He has loved us. Although that love will be expressed in different ways in contemporary society as compared to the time of Jesus, the essence of love for our neighbor remains the same. The washing of the feet during the Mass on Holy Thursday is not a mere reenactment of what Jesus did with his disciples. It is an invitation to allow Jesus to take possession of our hearts at the deepest core so that we can go forth into the world to be that kind of love to others.
Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday) is the only day of the year in which we do not celebrate the Eucharistic Liturgy. The paschal fast is observed everywhere on Good Friday to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus and to prepare ourselves to share more deeply in his resurrection. If possible, this paschal fast should continue to be observed on Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil. Unfortunately, I believe this component is frequently missed in our contemporary culture. Instead of maintaining a heart focused on prayer and fasting on Holy Saturday in preparation of the Great Easter Vigil, individuals and organizations begin their Easter celebrations with Easter egg hunts, big meals, and other “noisy” events on Saturday. This premature celebration of Easter has the potential to deprive us of entering more fully into the Celebration of Light at the Great Easter Vigil. Spending sufficient time reflecting upon Christ crucified and lying in the tomb is essential for us to grasp the sacred mysteries which Holy Saturday recalls.
The Great Easter Vigil in the Holy Night is made up of four distinct parts: Lucernarium, Liturgies of Word, Baptism, and Eucharist. This liturgy is profoundly beautiful, and it is my hope that our churches are overflowing with people to join the celebration. The fire, the paschal candle, the singing of the Easter Proclamation, the story of salvation history through the Scripture Readings, the blessing of the Easter water, baptisms, and the Holy Eucharist all comprise a night of worship unlike any other. The joy experienced by those coming into the Church through the Sacrament of Baptism is an awesome reminder to all of us the glory of God.
Finally, we reach Easter Sunday and the Triduum officially ends with Vespers. The first eight days of the Easter season make up the octave of Easter and are celebrated as Solemnities of the Lord. We recognize these solemnities with the double alleluia being added to the dismissal and response at each Mass.
May each of you experience abundant blessings during these holy days of the Paschal Triduum!