Dear Fellow Parishioners,
First, I would like to thank all those who helped prepare and celebrate Palm Sunday. As on most any other Sunday, we had six Masses with six different musical settings. Even in a simplified form, it still takes a small army of people to prepare the palms and make it all happen for six Masses, and to make palms available for those not able to attend.
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter Triduum– the three days before Easter. This Mass celebrates not only the Last Supper, but more specifically, the Institution of the Eucharist.
The bells are rung throughout the Gloria, then fall silent until the Easter Vigil. The purpose of the wooden clapper used later in the Mass– the one time of the year it is used– is to highlight the silencing of the bells, and to call to mind the crucifixion itself.
After Mass, the altar is stripped and the Blessed Sacrament is moved to the Tabernacle of Repose until just before the Easter Vigil. The sanctuary lamp is extinguished to symbolize the empty tabernacle.
Good Friday. The Good Friday liturgy includes the Passion narrative, the Solemn Intercessions, the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion. At 3:00 p.m.– the traditional hour when Jesus dies on the cross, we will be praying the Stations of the Cross. The main purpose of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a personal spiritual pilgrimage through the Passion of Christ. They are prayed all through Lent, and never more appropriately than on Good Friday. The Stations are one of the most popular Christian devotions, and can be found in some Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches as well as Catholic churches.
The Stations of the Cross have an early and strong association with the Franciscan order and its founder, St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis founded the Custody of the Holy Land in 1217. By the 12-14th centuries, there was a “Via Sacra”, a settle route that pilgrims followed, though it is unknown how closely it corresponds to the Stations we have today. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Franciscans began to build a number of outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate those in the Holy Land for those who could not go there personally. In 1731, the number of stations was fixed at fourteen, and all churches were allowed to have stations provided that a Franciscan priest erected them. The right of parishes to erect their own stations of the cross without involvement of the Franciscans was not established until 1862– five years after St. Vincent’s became a parish.
As to the Stations themselves, only eight of the fourteen have a clear scriptural basis. Stations 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9 are not specifically mentioned in the Gospels– that is, the three falls of Jesus, Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, and Jesus’ body being taken down from the Cross and laid in the arms of Mary. Though not specifically in scripture, they are completely consistent with it, and have been celebrated for centuries.
This year, the Easter Vigil will be simpler than in past years, but will contain the essential elements– the Easter fire, the Paschal candle, the proclaiming of the Exultet, and the Vigil readings which re-tell salvation history. COVID-related restrictions on congregational singing, as well as the smaller number of people receiving the Easter sacraments, will result in a liturgy of noble simplicity.
I hope you have found the foregoing interesting and useful. This will be our first Easter in the church building in two years. I pray that our celebrations of the Triduum and Easter help make this a season of grace and hope for our parish, and for all of us who regard it as our spiritual home.
With Easter blessings,
Fr. Bill Donahue