As I write this, your parish staff is scrambling to prepare for the amazing celebrations of Holy Week. We’re not far from our Palm Sunday liturgies, when we recall how Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem riding a donkey. At the beginning of each Mass this weekend, I’ll bless our palms, and then share Mark’s version of that particular moment. To prepare yourself for the Palm Sunday Masses, I encourage you to read the accounts from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 21:1-11) or Luke’s Gospel (Luke 19:28-39). Each evangelist mentions certain details, and together they give us a rich picture of that pivotal moment of our Lord’s ministry.
The bilingual Holy Thursday Mass at 7pm will have several special components. First, we’ll receive the sacred oils which Bishop Knestout will have blessed just a few days earlier at the special Chrism Mass. Our parish’s allotment will make its way from Richmond, and we’ll receive these special oils that our Lord instructs to be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and holy orders. Unfortunately, for pandemic-related reasons, I won’t be washing anybody’s feet, but I’ll talk about the significance of that gesture in my homily on Thursday night. Finally, we celebrate the Institution of the Lord’s Supper; we thank God that He remains eternally and substantively present to us in the Eucharist. You’re invited to an evening (8pm to midnight) of quiet, socially distant Eucharistic adoration in the presence of Christ Himself in the Holy Family gymnasium of Sacred Heart Catholic School.
On Good Friday I’ll lead the Stations of the Cross twice, in English at 3pm and in Spanish at 6pm, using reflections that make each station pertinent to our lives in challenging, personal ways. The prayer service that begins at 7pm begins with the Liturgy of the Word—together we’ll hear and reflect on the Passion of our Lord as recounted in John’s Gospel. Then we have a time of adoration of the Holy Cross. Each of us will be invited to approach to honor (by bowing or genuflecting, but, this year, with no physical contact) the instrument of our salvation. Finally, we receive communion which was consecrated the day before.
On Holy Saturday, we have no 5pm Mass. Instead, the bilingual Easter Vigil, by far the most significant celebration of our entire Christian year, begins at 8pm. We start at a bonfire which symbolizes the fires before creation. From that fire, I light our new paschal candle, which we follow through the darkness into the Church. The sung Exultet and the readings remind us of the scope of salvation history. Then, thirteen members of our Sacred Heart family will receive sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and/or the Eucharist for the first time. Be prepared, it’s a long service which never lasts less than two hours. However, it’s worth it—after a long journey through Lent, it’s amazing to witness the radiance of the Risen Lord piercing through the darkness. (On Easter Sunday, we keep our regular schedule. Mass in English begins at 9am, and Mass in Spanish at noon.)
I encourage you to participate in any and all of these beautiful services! Because in-person attendance is so unpredictable this year, we’ve decided not to have any system for advance sign-ups or reservations. At each Mass, our staff members will seat folks who arrive until we reach our temporary capacity. In order to avoid being turned away, please plan to arrive early. Every service next week (except for the vigil Mass of Palm Sunday) will be livestreamed, so you’re also able to tune in from home. Regardless of where we physically are, let’s immerse ourselves together in these core elements of our Christian faith.