Celebrations Remembered

April 2nd 2021
When I was growing up, our family often travelled to a nearby monastery to celebrate the major feasts of the liturgical year with the Franciscan Friars. It was always special. At Christmas, we joined in Midnight Mass and the welcoming of the Christ child into the world with the community of monks sharing their joy in a stirring delivery of Gregorian chant.

During Holy Week, we celebrated the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil liturgy with the monks as well. The readings of the Holy Week liturgy are charged with meaning; the temple priests, the gathering crowds, the political concerns of Roman officials, the institution of the Eucharist and the arrest and passion of Jesus. All these forces of good and evil seem to collude and collide during this holiest of weeks in the Church Year.

Saturday’s Easter Vigil at the monastery began after dark with the lighting of the Easter Candle outside the chapel from which each of us lit our own vigil candles and processed into a darkened chapel as the celebrant proclaimed the “Light of Christ”. Our own candles symbolized the risen Christ illuminating the lives of each of us.

As a child, the seven readings of the Easter Vigil, recounting the history of creation, the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt seemed endless. Today, I appreciate how they tell the entire salvation story, how meaningful they are. The Vigil liturgy next proceeds to renewal of our baptismal vows and finally concludes with the feast of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. This was our Holy Week. This is why Christ came down to be with us.

This liturgy of Holy Week which concludes with our joyful celebration of the great feast of Easter is what gives so much meaning to our Faith; it informs us that there is more to our life than this world alone; that there is more to us than this. It is also a reminder of what we miss when we can’t share this liturgy together. Let us therefore rejoice and be glad that we have this gift of freedom to worship and look forward to its return soon.

- Tom