LITURGY MATTERS: Easter is high point of the year
BY JENNY ANDERSON
THERE is so much to say about preparing for Easter, we will only skim the surface here. In a sense, we are always preparing for Easter. We start the journey anew each Lent and move towards Easter.
Everything flows from it and leads back to it. The focus of the liturgy is always the life, death and resurrection of Christ. During the Easter season this is even more evident. Examining the key symbols helps us bring them to life, drawing us to full, conscious, active participation. Let’s take a closer look:
Palm Sunday we commemorate Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. We hold our palm leaves and process as we remember how Jesus’ journey to the Cross began.
The Chrism Mass, celebrated at the Cathedral, draws together the clergy of the diocese to celebrate with the bishop (a great symbol of unity), the oils for the year ahead are blessed and consecrated. The priests renew their ordination promises.
The Easter Triduum is celebrated across three days: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. “Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery” (USCCB).
It is interesting looking at the flow of this liturgy. For instance, we begin on Holy Thursday with an opening hymn, but the recessional isn’t sung until the Easter Vigil closes: Good Friday and the Easter Vigil begin in silence emphasising the connectedness of these liturgies.
Holy Thursday remembers the Last Supper, with the Washing of the Feet. We remember Jesus’ instruction to “do this as a memorial of me” 1 Cor: 11:24. The Missal points out that there may be a procession of gifts for the poor presented with the bread and wine: this could be an opportune time to bring Project Compassion boxes to the altar, perhaps using the same flow as the Communion procession. This liturgy concludes with the Transfer of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose and a time of adoration. We finish in silence.
Good Friday is all about the Crucifixion. It is a day of fasting and abstinence. The liturgy is bare, simple and raw. The tabernacle is empty and the sanctuary lamp is out. We receive Holy Communion consecrated on Holy Thursday. We venerate the Cross, the symbol of our salvation: regarding it with great respect.
The Easter Vigil is the celebration of the Resurrection. There are four parts, beginning with the service of light: lighting the new Paschal Candle. The liturgy of the Word shares the story of salvation history, highlighting key moments from the beginning of Genesis to the resurrection. Then we move into the Liturgy of Baptism, baptising RCIA candidates and renewing our baptismal promises. We conclude by sharing in the Eucharist, to be sent forth to live as people of the resurrection.
The Easter Season continues for 50 days until Pentecost. We continue lighting the Paschal Candle during this time. Old Testament readings are replaced with readings from the Acts of the Apostles encouraging us to live out the paschal mystery.
Immediately following Easter, we celebrate ANZAC Day. ANZAC Day is an important Australian commemoration, remembering those who have lost their lives in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. It is a time to pray for peace.
ANZAC Day is best acknowledged through the choice of hymns, the decoration of the Church, the homily and the prayers of intercession. There were some prayers and intercessions released by the ACBC for the ANZAC Centenary that offer a useful model. These are available on the ACBC website.
Music groups may like to consider Mass for the Fallen by Christopher Wilcock or his song ‘We Will Remember Them’. These are available from https://www.catholic.org.au/mass-for-the-fallen/anzac-centenary
The journey continues.