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Viewpoint from Father Henry McCarthy 13/05/11


The Paschal Mystery

Father Henry McCarthy
St Peter’s Catholic Church, Gorleston
I and, I expect many others involved in the Easter Liturgy, are feeling very tired and exhausted both physically and emotionally after the ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter
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Holy Week comes at the end of Lent – a special time from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday of Prayer of Fasting and Almsgiving. It is a time of spiritual preparation for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery
Holy Week began on Palm (Passion) Sunday with Readings about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and then we had a procession outside carrying palm branches and singing, before entering the church for Mass during which one of the accounts of the Passion was read
During Lent and, especially in Holy Week, there is a sombre aspect to the Liturgy. The Liturgical Colour is purple for Sorrow and Repentance. There are no flowers in church. for Sorrow and Repentance. There are no flowers in church. The ‘Alleluia’ and ‘Gloria’ are omitted and only certain hymns are sung. In Holy Week this intensifies with the covering of statues, crosses or pictures in the church with purple. It is also a time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and Penitential Services are held for this purpose in addition to the normal times for Confession
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On the Wednesday of Holy Week, we assembled in the evening at the Cathedral for the ‘Chrism Mass’. This is the biggest annual gathering of the people from around the Diocese in our Cathedral of St John in Norwich to witness the renewal of the Promises of the Priests and Deacons, in the presence of the Bishop. Then the Bishop blessed the Oils, which are to be used during the coming year in the administration of the Sacraments. We were delighted that Bishop Michael Evans was able to preside and preach at this event despite his very serious illness
On the Holy Thursday, back in our own church, we prepared for the ‘Mass of the Last Supper’ during which the feet of 12 people were washed by the celebrant. After the Mass there was a procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the ‘Altar of Repose’ where people came to pray until midnight, symbolizing Jesus’ Agony in the Garden and his arrest and trial by Caiaphas during that fateful night
On the Good Friday a Solemn Liturgy took place at 3pm in the afternoon, the time of Jesus’ death on the Cross. During this St John’s account of the Passion was read and there was the Veneration of the Cross. In the evening we had the service of the ‘Stations of the Cross’
On the Holy Saturday, the church remained empty and still. There was no service until the evening when people gathered after dark for the Easter Vigil. During this Vigil Mass the somber aspect of Lent was thrown aside, all the purple removed, lights were lit, the ‘Gloria’ and ‘Alleluia’ were sung once more and we all rejoiced that ‘Christ had Risen as he said. Alleluia!
It is a wonderful uplifting few days but very tiring. Yet I would not miss it for anything. It is a powerful reminder to us all that Christ had to undergo to overcome Sin in the world and reminds us of the extent of his undying love for us all