Holy Week observances and meanings
Mark Dunn – For The Record
It is Holy Week, the days just before Easter next Sunday. On Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving known as Lent.
During Holy Week one can find Catholics in Orange County, and throughout the world, taking part in ancient religious practices- some are so rare and sacred, they’re done only once a year. Beginning Palm Sunday, and running up to Easter, Catholics act out parts from the finals days of Christ’s earthly life.
On Palm Sunday the Catholic Church recalls Jesus’ messianic entrance into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. As Jesus rode into the city on a small donkey, the Jews gathered around him, throwing cloaks and palm branches on the road and exclaiming praises as he passed by.
So at Palm Sunday Mass, there is a blessing of palms which the faithful hold as they process into church. The blessed palms are later kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ.
The following observances offer a glimpse into the week ahead for Catholics in Orange County and worldwide.
On Holy Thursday, the Catholic Church celebrates a special Mass of the Lord’s Supper – that commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. On the night before Jesus Christ was crucified, he changed bread and wine into his own Body and Blood, and he commanded the Apostles – and their successors through the centuries – to act in his stead and re-present this sacrifice. So at every Mass, by way of transubstantiation, the bread and wine offered by the priest becomes Christ’s Body and Blood again.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
Just as Christ did for his 12 Apostles at the Last Supper and as he commanded them to do likewise, during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the priest – who represents Christ – ceremoniously washes the feet of 12 people in the congregation. At the Holy Thursday liturgy in the Vatican, even the pope performs the foot washing. In fact, across the centuries, it has been practice for the pope to wash the feet of 12 priests after Mass and of 13 poor men after his dinner.
GOING WITH JESUS TO GETHSEMANE
After the Last Supper and before he was arrested and condemned to death, Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, accompanied by two of the disciples. So after the Holy Thursday Mass, the remaining sacred hosts are carried out of the sanctuary to an “altar of repose,” and the people go with the Eucharistic Christ in a procession. The transported is sometimes surrounded by decorations of greenery and flowers to suggest a garden. People stay for a time, adoring the wondrous sacrament that Jesus instituted that day 2,000 years ago. Some make an adoration visit at their own parish and then visit others into the night.
A VACANT CHURCH
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper finished, the church – now without the Eucharist – is truly empty. So the tabernacle light – which is always lit and signifying Christ’s presence – is extinguished, and the tabernacle door is left open, exposing the vacant space inside. The altar is stripped bare of its linens and candles, holy water is removed from the church’s fonts and the sacraments are not celebrated until the Easter vigil. Like the first Christians bereft of Jesus and mourning the two days after the crucifixion, the church stands unadorned until the Easter vigil Mass on Saturday night. With the resurrection of Jesus, the church’s joy is restored.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS
The Stations of the Cross devotion is centered on the Passion of Christ. While many Catholics pray the meditative prayer on their own across the year, it can be an especially poignant experience during Holy Week, when the entire church recalls the way of Jesus’ suffering and death. In fact, on Good Friday, many churches host parish-wide Stations of the Cross.
By praying the Stations of the Cross, a person makes a spiritual pilgrimage to the principal scenes of the salvific Passion of the Lord, aided by artistic representations of those scenes, for example, Pilate’s condemnation of Christ to death and the nailing of Christ to the Cross. Usually, Stations of the Cross are found inside churches, spaced in intervals on the walls, but sometimes outdoors such as in the cloisters of monasteries.
EMBRACE THE CROSS
On Good Friday, the church gathers for the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, which includes a reading of a Gospel account of the Passion, Holy Communion (consecrated at Mass on Thursday night) and veneration of the Cross.
In that tradition, a priest or deacon holds a wooden crucifix while the faithful process to him at the foot of the sanctuary, as if to receive communion. There each person reverences the crucifix with a kiss or a bow.
In some places, there are additional Good Friday devotions. Especially from noon to 3 p.m. – the hour at which Christ died on the cross – some silently meditate, pray the Stations of the Cross or participate in a Good Friday procession.
Orange County Holy Week Observances:
• 19th Annual Good Friday Walk- Catholics and non-Catholics are welcome to take part in the procession that will begin at 7:30 a.m. at St. Maurice Church in Mauriceville and conclude at St. Francis Church in Orange at approximately 2:30 p.m. prior to their Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m. The procession will move down Highway 62 to FM 1078 and on to Bancroft, Sikes, MLK, Alley Payne and Meeks Drive to Saint Francis Church. Participants may join the procession anywhere along the journey. Rest stops, water and Gatorade and snacks will be available.
• St. Mary Church, Orange- Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper will be held at 6:30 p.m.; Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Adoration of the Cross and Communion Service will be at 3 p.m., Stations of the Cross at 6 p.m.; Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Service at 7 p.m.; Easter Sunday Mass will be held at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.
• St. Francis of Assisi, Orange- Holy Thursday Mass and Procession at 6:30 p.m.; Good Friday Stations of the Cross (Outdoors) at 3 p.m. proceeded by Mass at 3:45 p.m.; Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Service Saturday at 8 p.m., Easter Mass will be held at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
• St. Maurice Church, Mauriceville- Holy Thursday Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper 7 p.m.; Good Friday Lord’s Passion at 7 p.m.; Holy Saturday Easter Vigil 7:30 p.m.; Easter Sunday Mass at 10:30 a.m.
• St. Helen Church, Orangefield- Holy Thursday Eucharist of the Lord’s Last Supper with Washing of the Feet of the Discples at 6:30 p.m., Reposition and adoration until midnight; Good Friday Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m. followed by the Passion of our Lord and adoration until 4 p.m.; Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil 8:30 p.m.; Easter Sunday Mass is 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.
• St. Henry Church, Bridge City- Holy Thursday Mass at 7 p.m.,; Good Friday 3 p.m.; Holy Saturday Easter Vigil 8 p.m.; Easter Sunday Mass at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
• Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Vidor- Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m.; Good Friday Stations of the Cross at noon with Mass at 3 p.m.; Holy Saturday Easter Vigil 7 p.m.; Easter Mass at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. (Latin).