Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
He is our Passover. The words hang in the air as we pray the first Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation. “Indeed, though we once were lost and could not approach you, you loved us with the greatest love: for your Son, who alone is just, handed himself over to death, and did not disdain to be nailed for our sake to the wood of the Cross. But before his arms were outstretched between heaven and earth to become the lasting sign of your covenant, he desired to celebrate the Passover with his disciples…”
He is Lord of the Passover, God who became Man for this moment when he could become the fulfillment of Creation’s deliverance. He becomes the Lamb of the Passover meal, prescribed so carefully by God in the meal of the flight from Egypt, now in the form of unleavened bread, because the people of Israel have no time to wait for the yeast to rise… we must flee from our captivity and come to know the freedom of the daughters and sons of God who is life. Now, take haste. To God, whose love is greater than any sin. God, who is love, must redeem his beloved.
“Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of your Son Jesus Christ, who is our Passover and our surest peace, we celebrate his Death and Resurrection from the dead, and looking forward to his blessed Coming, we offer you, who are our faithful and merciful God, this sacrificial Victim who reconciles to you the human race.” And from the second prayer, “Accept us also, together with your Son, and in this saving banquet graciously endow us with his very Spirit, who takes away everything that estranges us from one another.”
Come, gather this Thursday, as we re-present this event of our salvation, the institution of Eucharist and Priesthood when Jesus literally came into his own and fulfilled the plan formed by God from the beginning of the world. The Meal and the Cross form a unity such that they cannot be separated either from themselves or from the dawn of new life in resurrection. For this reason the three days of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) cannot be separated, they form one continuous liturgy which begins with the Last Supper and ends with the Empty Tomb. The tomb makes no sense without the ultimate sacrifice; likewise, the sacrifice This is my Body, this is my Blood makes no sense without a victory, his passing over the darkness and silence of our death. You will notice we only begin once with the customary sign of the Cross, only once do we end with the final blessing after the Vigil Mass: they form a continuous whole, one liturgy of the saving Mystery of Jesus.
There is something rare about what happens on Good Friday. We observe the three hours of Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross, and people became accustomed to the Stations of the Cross in the few centuries before Vatican II before the restoration of the ancient Triduum in 1969, but these are really private meditations and devotions. Neither of these actually belong to the particular ancient Tradition of the Church for this day. We intentionally gather in the darkness of Good Friday evening to recognize the emptiness of the church where, for one day, Jesus is not present among us. We recognize the impact of this event: no sacraments may be celebrated because the Lord of life has died. We listen to Saint John’s account of his Passion. We venerate the wood of the Cross, the instrument of our salvation. We receive Communion, leftover from Holy Thursday which is brought into our space from outside.
The Apostles took up the commemoration of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, because his Death and Resurrection are at the heart of our salvation, our Passover. At least by the second century, Christians celebrated the Great Easter Vigil, an event which began the night of Holy Saturday, continuing until dawn on Easter morning. During this vigil, Christians commemorated salvation history, awaited the return of Jesus, and celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus at dawn on Easter Sunday. It was at the Vigil that catechumens, after a three-year period of catechesis, were baptized and received first Communion. The Easter Vigil is the most important day of the liturgical year. Imagine if our Vigil were to start at sundown and end at sunrise, as in the early Church! As it is, it lasts several hours, as we only include seven readings and psalm responses from Scripture, instead of listening to the Word of God all night until the new light of dawn. At that moment of Resurrection we sing, again, the Glory to God and the light of Christ, blessed and venerated, floods our hearts and minds with the new life of Christ himself.
Easter Sunday Masses are the celebration of our new life in Baptism as we gather for the sole purpose to proclaim the joy of our new life, as we renew our promises and are sprinkled in the waters of the Easter font of rebirth. A day of ultimate Joy, we gather for no other reason than to celebrate and give thanks. Join us for these amazing days.
God bless you.