March 27, 2021 Column Father De Celles

HOLY WEEK. Today we enter the holiest week of the year, commemorating the holiest week of all time, when the God of heaven and earth, creator of all the universe, God the Son, eternally begotten of God the Father, condescended to suffer and die in our flesh for the sins of all mankind. The week Jesus offered Himself as a living sacrifice out of love for His Father and for us.

            A week that changed the world forever, echoing throughout history until the end of time. And so today we remember it not just as something that happened 2000 year ago, but as something that is alive today. And we use the gifts of intellect, reason, sensation, emotion and faith to take us back, to be and walk with Jesus, and with Mary, John, Peter, Magdalene, Pilate and Caiaphas…and Judas. To see what they saw, hear what they heard, feel what they felt, and even touch what they touched

And so we use visible, audible and tactile realities to draw us into these events: we sing hymns, look at pictures or watch movies, read and listen to Scripture. We pray the Sorrowful Mysteries fingering our Rosaries, and we walk the Stations of the Cross. And we actively participate in the very special liturgies of this week, that outwardly and ritually express the holy mysteries.

We begin today with Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion, as we hold the palms and greet Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem at the beginning of that first Holy Week. And then we listen as multiple readers proclaim the drama of the Passion of the Lord from St. Mark’s Gospel, and verbally join “the crowd,” even shouting with Caiaphas, “Crucify Him.”

And then there’s Holy Thursday. There are no Masses all day long anywhere in the Diocese, except for the morning Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. But on Thursday evening the parishes celebrate their only Mass of the day: The Mass of The Lord’s Supper (7:00pm). Here we celebrate the institution of the Sacraments of the Priesthood and Eucharist at the first Mass celebrated by Our Lord just hours before He was to suffer. Afterwards we process with our Eucharistic Lord from the church to the Parish Hall, just as the apostles walked with Jesus from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane, and there we watch and pray until Midnight, recalling Our Lord’s agony and betrayal.

We awake on Good Friday to a church that is stripped as much as possible of all decoration: the altar is stripped of its cloths, and the candles, crosses and rugs—every moveable ornament—are gone. This reminds us how the first disciples were stripped of all earthly consolation and how the Lord was stripped of all outward appearance of human dignity during His trial and suffering, and how He was finally stripped of His clothes, to be hanged naked on the Cross. Recalling all this, we join in Our Lord’s suffering by fasting and abstaining from meat (see rules elsewhere in this bulletin). From noon to three, wherever we are, we try to observe a time of quiet recollection—perhaps in church, but also even at work or home—recalling these are the hours Jesus hanged on the cross.

And then at 3 o’clock, the hour of His death, we all gather in the church for the solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. Every year I am profoundly moved by this most unique liturgy, as the faithful come together to stand with Mary, John and Magdalen at the foot of the Cross. Their senses and faith lead their minds and hearts back over the centuries to Calvary, as their eyes see the Cross and all the eloquent rituals, and their ears hear the words of the Gospel, the prayers and the glorious yet sorrowful music of the choir. And then they walk up slowly and reverently, many in tears, to gently touch or tenderly kiss the wood of His Cross. And finally, their tongues taste the goodness of the Lord, as He comes to console them in Holy Communion.

Later on Good Friday we have the Stations of the Cross at 7:00pm. A great way to end this most holy day of the year.

Then on Holy Saturday, though no Masses are said during the day, we join the whole Church waiting “at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting”  by our somber prayerful reflection and voluntarily continuation of the fast and abstinence of Good Friday (as the Church strongly encourages). But then, when the sun goes down on Saturday evening, the Light of Christ shines forth as we begin the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord with the Easter Vigil Mass (8:30pm), with all sorts of unique ceremonies: the blessing of the Easter Candle; the chanting of the Exsultet; a richly extended Liturgy of the Word; celebration of adult Baptism, reception into the Church, and Confirmation. It is a glorious Mass (however, lasting two hours, it can be tough for little ones).

2020 vs. 2021. Last year I was required to celebrate the Triduum with only myself, Fr. Willard and 8 other lectors and servers. It was honestly one of the saddest weeks of my life, saved only by the grace of the Paschal Mystery. Thanks be to God, thousands of you were able to watch these special Liturgies on livestream.

This year part of me is overjoyed that at least 250 of you will be able to join me live in the Church (1000 on Easter Sunday), but part of me is still heartsick that most of you will not be able to attend, either because of COVID concerns or capacity limits. I was hoping and praying the capacity limit would be modified in time for the Triduum, but of course that is not happening. God’s will, trust in Jesus.

But I hope all of you who can’t attend in person (here or elsewhere) will be able to join us through livestreaming, especially on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In particular, as always, I beg you to try to attend or watch the Good Friday 3pm Liturgy, such a unique and Holy Liturgy. This is the holiest hour of the year, the hour of the death of Our Lord. What in the world could be more important than this?!

            Confessions. And don’t forget we have Confessions all week (except Holy Thursday and Easter), with multiple confessors at multiple scheduled times. We also have daily Mass Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

See the schedule below.

Scam Emails. Once again someone is contacting parishioners using my name to scam them for money. Remember: 1) I have only one email address—never believe any email purporting to be from me that is not from; 2) I will never email you asking for any kind of money or gift card unless it is part of a bigger project the whole parish knows about; 3) report any scam emails to me or the office.

Oremus pro invicem.   Fr. De Celles