Dear Parishioners and Friends,
In just one week’s time we will enter the most sacred days of the Church’s liturgical year – Holy Week – and I would like to acquaint you with some of the highlights of the services which will be celebrated during those days.
We will begin with Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion during which we commemorate the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem astride a donkey as the people waved palm branches and hailed him as “Son of David!” As the liturgy progresses, the mood swiftly shifts to a more somber tone as we hear the story of the Passion according to St. Matthew. Do you wonder if the same crowds who shouted “Hosanna” were also the ones who screamed “Let him be crucified?” If so, this demonstrates how fickle the human heart is, and how soon an adoring crowd can turn into a lynch mob.
Several days later on Holy Thursday, we will commemorate the Lord’s Supper with his closest disciples in the Upper Room. Together we will remember Jesus’s mandate to wash one another’s feet with the ritual enactment of the “mandatum.” In addition to the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus also called his followers to a life of selfless service, and demonstrated that in a dramatic manner by becoming their servant who was willing to get on his knees and wash their dirty feet. The Mass ends with the singing of the beautiful chant, “Pange lingua,” as the Eucharist is borne to the altar of reservation in the chapel. A brief service of Compline (Night Prayer) at 9:00 PM concludes the evening.
Good Friday includes two services. The first one at 3:00 pm is the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion during which the Passion according to St. John is sung by members of the choir, during which we are asked to reflect on the meaning of truth and the Lord’s hour of glory. This is followed by the procession of the cross from the chapel into the church by students in our Confirmation class, after which everyone is invited to come forward to honor the cross of our salvation. Finally, the Eucharist consecrated the evening before is shared as a reminder of the Lord’s enduring presence and love.
At 7:00 PM on Good Friday our choirs will perform “The Crucifixion” by Sir John Stainer, a British composer who lived from 1840 to 1901. This work, while not as widely known as other musical settings of the Passion, is very dramatic and moving. You will undoubtedly be familiar with the chorus “God so loved the world” as well as Passiontide hymns which everyone is invited to sing. A free-will offering will be received at the end of the service.
Holy Saturday’s “day of silent waiting” gives way to the Great Vigil of Easter starting at 8:00 PM during which the new fire is blessed and the Paschal Candle is lighted from the fire. The ancient hymn “Exsultet” is then sung, recalling God’s redemptive actions following the fall of Adam and Eve. Here, even the bees that produced the wax for the candle are remembered with great joy! Then the stories from the Hebrew scriptures are told: Creation, the Exodus, and the words of the prophets who foretold our salvation. The liturgy continues with the return of the Gloria and then the Alleluia, having been silent throughout the season of Lent. The Gospel of St. Matthew, recounting the announcement of the Lord’s resurrection to the women who went to the tomb on Easter morning, is then proclaimed. Following what is sure to be a stirring homily by Fr. Bill, the water of the baptismal font is blessed and all of us renew our baptismal promises to reject sin, and to confess our faith in the Triune God. Water from the font is then sprinkled upon the gathered assembly.
Easter Sunday begins with a special musical prelude at 7:45 AM. First performed last year, the text by our parishioner Joan Martin and music composed by our former choir member Matthew Bridgeman, tells the story of Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Lord. Please try to be on time for this special moment which leads directly into the great hymn “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today!”
At the 10:00 AM Mass on Easter Sunday, our Gallery Choir will be joined by the children of the Church Street Singers. A musical highlight of the liturgy will be the singing of the Easter Sequence, “Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises.” This beautiful ancient hymn serves as an introduction to the Alleluia before the Gospel proclamation.
I hope you will join us for as many of these significant liturgies as possible as we commemorate the Lord’s Paschal Mystery – his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Blessings on your week ahead!
Fr. Tim Shreenan, O.F.M.Pastor