Holy Week (April 2-9) will be a busy week, but one filled with unique prayer experiences as well as some social activities for members and guests of all ages. I am looking forward to my first Holy Week as pastor here in Suffield and hope we all can connect to the great mysteries of our faith that are highlighted in the coming days. For Roman Catholics and for most Christians, the week is a time to reflect and celebrate as we ponder the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. For our Jewish sisters and brothers, it is the time of Passover, and for most of our Orthodox brothers and sisters the following week is their Holy Week. All around us many people of faith will be observing very meaningful celebrations of their faith lives. It truly is a wonderful time of the year!
At Sacred Heart Parish, Holy Week Masses are 4 p.m. on Saturday as well as 8, 9:30 and 11 on Sunday morning. The distribution of blessed palm branches will take place at all the Masses along with the reading of the Passion Narrative from the gospel of St. Matthew this year. After the Masses on Sunday morning, the Suffield Knights of Columbus will be hosting a pancake breakfast to raise money for ongoing relief efforts in the Ukraine as well as refugee camps in Poland.
Holy Thursday marks the beginning of the Sacred Triduum. This is one prayer that lasts for three consecutive days. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper will begin on Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. Unlike all our other Masses, there is no final blessing or dismissal. Instead, the Blessed Sacrament is processed out of the church and reposed at another altar, and the church will remain open for private quiet prayer time until 10 p.m.. On Good Friday, the only day when there is no Roman Catholic Mass anywhere in the world, there is a Service at 3:00 p.m.for the reading of the Passion according to St. John. This Service includes the veneration of the Cross and distribution of Communion. It is a somber, quiet time. At night we will gather to pray the traditional Stations of the Cross at 6:30 p.m.
On Holy Saturday we invite you to join us at 10 in the morning for the Blessing of Easter Foods. This tradition is very popular in Eastern European countries. Foods for the Easter table are brought to the church usually in very decorative baskets or containers. This symbolizes the end of the Lenten fast and preparation for the Feast of Easter. Brightly colored eggs, a tradition which some say goes back to St. Mary Magdeline after the very first Easter. In addition to the blessing of the foods, the Body of Christ in the Tomb is displayed as a reminder that Holy Saturday is the day of waiting for the promised resurrection. The statue of the “Dead Christ” was found in St. Joseph Church and has a new home at Sacred Heart.
Also new this year or returning after a lengthy hiatus will be our Easter Egg Hunt for our youngest members and guests hosted by our Knights of Columbus. The event will begin at 11 a.m. hopefully, outside on our grounds; inside if the weather is not good. Hopefully, this will be a time to gather our young families for an opportunity to get to know each other and have some fun for the little ones.
Later that day, around 8 p.m. we will enter the Great Vigil of Easter. The celebration begins outside the church with the blessing of the new fire, the lighting of the Easter or Paschal Candle. We enter the church in darkness and distribute light from the Easter Candle. The ancient prayer, the Exultet, is offered and we begin the Liturgy of the Word. For the first time since Lent began, we sing the Gloria and the Alleluia! The Easter Gospel is proclaimed and then this is followed by the renewal of our Baptismal promises and a Sprinkling Rite in newly blessed holy water. This reminds us of our membership in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist and then are dismissed with a final blessing and a chorus of Alleluias. The fifty days of Easter begin for us once again.
Whatever your faith asks you to celebrate/observe in the coming weeks, I pray that you have a rich, deep, prayerful experience for yourself and those you love.