Happy Easter as our celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord continues. Easter is an Octave so everyday this week is a celebration of Easter. This morning I went to take some time to reflect and thank those that makes the events of the Triduum and Easter so memorable. While my focus here will be on my local parish, St. Jane de Chantal in Abita Springs, hopefully, as you read this, you too can reflect on the efforts of so many across parishes world-wide.
First of all I often wonder how much the congregation; the parishioner; knows about all the planning and preparation needed for these high holy days. It takes days, if not weeks, to make sure everything will be in place. The planning not only includes the clergy, your priests and deacons, but the office staff and those involved with the maintenance of the parish plant. Then we can not forget all the many volunteers, especially our altar society and many more.
Once all the planning and preparation done, including the cleaning and decorating of the church, when we arrive at the liturgies we have the readers, cantors, musicians and ushers who help us celebrate beautifully and worthily. We were beyond blessed in these ministries over the past few days.
On Holy Thursday we opt to open the day with Morning Prayer prayed in the church, in community. Several dozen parishioners gather to pray together. In the evening, we celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper, with all the unique aspects of this beautiful liturgy. Instead of a normal "ending" to the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is processed from the church and transferred to a beautiful altar of repose located in our parish hall. For this to happen the hall is transformed into a beautiful worship space and the path from the church to the hall is lined with lighted torches. Again, no small effort by our staff and volunteers.
On Good Friday we also begin the day with Morning Prayer in the church followed by the solemn 3 pm Passion of the Lord with veneration of the Cross. This is not a Mass and the rubrics call for unique prayers and movements not always present in the Mass. In such a solemn manner, when over, all simply depart the church in silence. Soon after this liturgy, the community did pray the 1st day of the Divine Mercy Novena. At 6 pm, we offered a final chance to pray the Stations of the Cross.
Holy Saturday is unique day as the church acknowledges the quietness of the church building, the Savior asleep in the grave. Morning prayer is offered for a third straight day then the quiet of the day is interrupted to prepare the sanctuary with the beautiful Easter Vigil. Our altar society, volunteers and maintenance team come together and transform the worship space into a beautiful array of flowers and Easter lilies and beautiful lines of white and gold. And then we wait until the darkness of the evening and the vigil liturgy begins outside with the lighting of the Easter fire. The Paschal Candle is light and enters the church which had been plunged into darkness. The beautiful singing of the Exsultet is followed by all the rich readings of the vigil Mass. With all lights on and candles lighted we hear the Gloria for the first time in weeks and proceed to hear the Gospel as we prepare for the welcoming of the new Catholics. This may entail baptisms or professions of faith and confirmation or all of the above. For this year's celebration we had the latter. And the Mass continues and all exit into the night aware that Easter is upon us. The assistance again from readers, musicians, and more is all amazing and simply does not just happen but is carefully planned.
Yet Easter weekend is not over. In our case we still offered celebrations of the Mass at 8 and 10 am followed by a Mass at noon at our mission church St. Michael's. And when all is done, priests, deacons, ministers, volunteers, staff relax at home in what I call holy exhaustion! And still, Easter continues all week long, as Easter is an Octave and does not end until Divine Mercy Sunday. Then, as a season, Easter continues to Pentecost Sunday, some 50 days away.
So as the title says: it was a beautiful and holy celebration and I offer a big thank-you to all the staff, ministers, musicians, volunteers, our pastor and my brother deacon for making everything, well, beautiful and holy!
A most Happy Easter everyone as we continue to celebrate the Risen Christ!