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Holy Thursday:

By Very Rev. Mark E. Kotlarczyk, V.F.

For the Universal Church, we begin our journey of sadness, deception, suffering, death, resurrection, and profound joy during the three days of the Sacred Truduum during Holy Week. This journey begins during the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. We begin the Mass with the Reception of the Holy Oils of the Sick, of the Catechumens, and of the Sacred Chrism. These holy oils are blessed and consecrated during the Mass of Holy Chrism celebrated during Holy Week by our Bishop Alberto Rojas.

The Liturgy of the Word begins. Our First Reading for the Liturgy of the Word comes from the book of Exodus. The sacred scripture recalls for us once again the story of the beginning of the Jewish custom of Passover. Our Second Reading recalls for us the first account of the Last Supper from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul’s account was historically recorded before any of the accounts of the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Our Gospel from St. John is the account of Jesus’ Mandatum to the Apostles. The Mandatum was Jesus’ command that as He washed the feet of His Apostles so they must do to others. Traditionally, clergy will wash the feet of members of the congregation during the Holy Thursday Mass.

We then move into the Rite of Communion. Jesus instituted this great Sacrament at the Last Supper with his Apostles. Jesus changed the traditional prayers of the Passover meal. The Apostles then received the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. The first Celebration of the Mass began at the Last Supper.

Finally, we have the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament from the church to another location of reposition. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday constitute one continuous liturgical action.

The Eucharist may be placed in a repository in a chapel or another designated place for prayer for the people until the Easter Vigil. We remove the Eucharist because we will observe Good Friday starting at midnight. The Eucharist is not to be returned to the church until the Easter Vigil.

Holy Thursday is always an exciting celebration for me. The richness of the Presentation of the Holy Oils, the sacred scriptures, the Washing of Feet, the Eucharist Prayer, and the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament are all combined into a celebration that we have because of Jesus’ love for us. The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper is such a rich celebration of God’s endless love. God never forgets us despite our imperfections. Holy Thursday is a great night to be a Catholic and a priest! What better way to start the Sacred Triduum than the celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper!

The Very Rev. Mark E. Kotlarczyk, V.F., is the pastor for St. Mary of the Valley Church, Yucca Valley and the Vicar Forane for the Low Desert Vicariate.


Good Friday:

By Madeline. M Jimenez

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” and when He had said this, He breathed his last - Luke 23:43

Reflecting on Good Friday, I have taken in yet the most holy and yet evocative days of my faith. I take the beginning of Holy Week starting with Palm Sunday with reverence, but Good Friday, for me personally, is a day of mourning yet gratitude for the holy sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our “Good Friday” was our Lord’s sacrifice, a sign of God’s love towards us which makes it a “Good Friday” for all mankind.

The sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross on Good Friday plays significantly in my faith to see that Jesus accepted His Father’s will even until His last breath. Good Friday reminds me that nothing is in control of my own will in my life except the Father. To carry my own cross, Jesus walks with me and carries the heaviest of all our crosses in which Good Friday is a reminder that the ultimate Love can be reached though sacrifice and suffering.

Madeline M. Jimenez is the Youth HS Confirmation Coordinator at St. Christopher Catholic Church, Moreno Valley.

Holy Saturday:

By Deacon John DeGano

Easter, the glorious celebration of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead begins in earnest at sundown on Holy Saturday. This is the night when the new Easter Fire is lit, the old oils are burned and the new Paschal Candle is revealed, blessed and processed solemnly into the dark church to dispel the darkness and begin the Vigil service.

If you never have attended, it is well worth it because the church pulls out all the stops on this most special evening of the liturgical year: Special choirs, music, multiple scripture readings (mostly proclaimed in the dark), and the reception of the ‘elect’ of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process, who will be received and baptized into the Roman Catholic faith.

Let me warn you, however, that depending upon the number to be baptized and fully initiated, the Mass can be very long (a couple of hours or more), so you might consider bringing a pillow (just in case) because our hard wooden pews are not very forgiving.

There is so much more I could report, but what moves me the most is 1) walking alone through the dark and empty church, seeing the reflection of the flickering flames of the Easter fire bouncing off the white plaster walls. It reminds me of the first-century church meeting clandestinely in caves to avoid persecution and 2), when we, the Body of Christ, publicly process from around the bonfire into the darkness of the church. I reflect on how this single flame atop the Paschal Candle, this light of Christ, will be shared with the community assembled until at last the whole church is bathed in a warm rosy glow of light and God’s love. Just as Jesus passed along the faith to his disciples and they, in turn, passed it on to us for close to 2,000 years!

And every Easter Vigil, I am filled once again with a sense of wonder and awe!

John DeGano is deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.

Easter Sunday:

By Sister Teresa Maher, C.P.P.S.

“When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (Jn 20:1-9)
On Easter we go to the tomb to find it empty, we don’t recognize Jesus as we thought he would be like, we hear Jesus tell Mary Magdelene to go, to go and tell, to be an apostle, not just in words, but in action as well. She speaks what she knows even when others doubt.

Easter – we are singing, anew, the Alleluia’s and the Gloria’s that touch our hearts. Yet, how have our lives changed because of our Lenten journey? How low do we bend to serve others? Where does our commitment to the Cross take us? How do we live Eucharist? What is the Easter Proclamation spoken from our lips?

Sr. Teresa Maher belongs to the Sisters of the Precious Blood and ministers as a Hospital Chaplain in the Diocese of San Bernardino.