The practical components seem to stick in my mind as I constantly evaluate the effectiveness of ministry. As leaders, are we creating an atmosphere of worship in which the hearts and minds of the congregation are truly lifted up to Almighty God? Obviously, God’s grace is needed for a profound encounter with our Lord, Jesus Christ. However, I believe we have a responsibility to do our best to prepare fertile soil for this encounter to happen. Good liturgy is one way of making this happen.
I ask these questions because I often wonder where the people are on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. I realize that these aren’t “Holy Days of Obligation,” but it seems to me that people would WANT to be present for these services during the Paschal Triduum. If it takes six Masses on a regular weekend to accommodate all of the parishioners, why can one service on Holy Thursday accommodate everyone without even having people standing? What part of catechesis and formation has been missed through the years? More importantly, how can we better teach and inform in the future so that another generation of people don’t miss the vital message contained in these holy days?
The somber nature of Good Friday seems to be more adequately understood than what takes place on Holy Thursday. We had an afternoon service as well as an evening service on Good Friday to accommodate the parishioners desiring to participate in the Passion of the Lord, the veneration of the cross, and the distribution of Holy Communion. The afternoon service even had people standing in the back. It was nice to see such a large turnout of people. Apparently, the death of Jesus on the cross has had a lasting impact on parishioners. Now, it is my hope that we will enrich the understanding of Eucharist through a greater understanding of the sacrifice on Calvary made present to us. The two are inextricably intertwined.
The Easter Vigil is a LONG service, but beautiful. The lighting of the new fire and Easter Candle, singing the Easter Proclamation, hearing the story of Salvation History with the many Old Testament Scripture readings, the blessing of the water, baptisms, confirmations, reception of first communion, and so much more is all contained in one splendid celebration. It is a lot of work and preparation to get ready for this celebration, but it is worth every minute. If you have chosen not to attend the Easter Vigil because it is too long, I invite you to reconsider next year. You will not be disappointed.
Finally, we pray for all of those who entered into the Church. Statistical evidence seems to indicate that a good portion of those who go through the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) process leave the Church within a couple of years. What can we do to better welcome these individuals and get them fully involved in the life of the local parish community? What is the role that each of us plays in building up the Kingdom of God by nurturing our own faith as well as the faith of others? Are we truly a community of believers?
Please remember, we celebrate Easter for 50 days leading us all the way to the great Feast of Pentecost.