We find ourselves coming up on Holy Week once again – but, as with so many things, Holy Week will be a bit different this year in light of Guidelines from the Vatican and Archdiocese. I wanted to fill you in a bit on these guidelines so you knew what to expect and what would be different from years’ past.
PALM SUNDAY – The celebration of Palm Sunday commemorates the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Usually this is commemorated with a blessing and procession with palms at the beginning of Masses. However, this year, there will be no blessing or procession of palms as in years past, instead the palms will be blessed prior to Mass and distributed as people enter into church. There will be no gathering in the Atrium and, instead, Mass will begin as usual in the church itself.
HOLY THURSDAY – This year’s guidelines eliminate two main features of our celebration of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday – the first is that there will be no washing of the feet and, secondly, no procession of the Blessed Sacrament to an Altar of Repose. Instead, at the end of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be placed in the main tabernacle in church. However, the church will remain open after the Mass until 10:00 PM for private prayer, with Night Prayer being prayed in church at 10:00 PM. Due to the number of people who normally attend Holy Thursday Mass, we will need to have a sign-up in place in order to keep a hand on attendance. Sign-up will begin at Noon on Monday, March 22nd – this will also be true for Good Friday as you will see below. However, everyone is welcome to come to church after Mass to pray and to attend Night Prayer as well.
GOOD FRIDAY – Due to attendance restrictions, the Archbishop has given parishes the option of celebrating two Good Friday Services this year. Since we usually have anywhere from 900-1000 people who come for Good Friday, I am grateful for that allowance this year. The main difference in the Good Friday liturgy will be found in a change in the Adoration of the Cross. Usually this is done with our large cross that sits in the Atrium and people come up individually to make some sign of reverence to the cross. This year, due to restrictions, we will venerate the cross from a distance with people remaining in their pews – we will also be using the method of veneration which includes the unveiling of the cross rather than a procession with it. Because the Archbishop has graciously allowed us to have two services, we will have two, one at the usual 12:00 time, with another at 3:00. Like Holy Thursday, these two will require advance registration which will also begin at Noon on March 22nd. Due to the limitation of people who can attend these services, we will also offer two opportunities for the Stations of the Cross in addition to the two services. Stations will be prayed at 9:00 AM and at 6:00 PM, there is no sign-up required for Stations.
HOLY SATURDAY – As those who have attended in the past know, the Easter Vigil begins normally with a blessing of the Easter fire and Paschal Candle outdoors. This year those will not be taking place, instead, people will gather in church prior to Mass as normal and the Paschal Candle will be blessed prior to the Mass privately. No sign-up will be required to attend the Easter Vigil.
EASTER SUNDAY – Easter Sunday Masses will be pretty much as normal. No sign-up will be required.
Just to reiterate – sign up will be required for the Holy Thursday Mass and the two Good Friday services, but sign up will not be required for any of the other Holy Week Masses and services. On another note, about Easter of last year, we began to record a Mass a weekend and send it out via e-mail for people to view at home. This was a great service to people and we were able to do it because of the generosity of a parishioner who took no payment for doing it, but certainly has given hours of his time to make it happen. As we come in now at the year mark, we have seen a steady decline in those watching it and given the decline in viewership and the return of many people to Mass in person, we will be drawing those videotaped Masses to a close with the final one being recorded for Palm Sunday. This is another sign that we are slowly but surely moving things back to a more normal rhythm as things go forward through the Spring and into Summer. Thank you for your patience and generosity as we have navigated all of this and a blessed Holy Week to all of you!