Lent ends at the beginning of Holy Thursday Mass?
(From the St. Isidore Parish Stewardship series)

Most people think Lent ends at the Easter Vigil. In fact, usually at the beginning of the Holy Thursday Mass, the oils which have been blessed at a diocesan Chrism Mass are presented to the parish community. At the end of the presentation of the oils of the Sick, Catechumen, and Chrism, there is a declaration that Lent is ended and the Sacred Triduum (pronounced trid-du-om) begins. The Triduum is ONE celebration, taking place over a three-day period. It includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil.

Although each liturgy is complete in itself and each has its own focus, the whole (Triduum) is one COMPLETE celebration of the most important holy days of the Church calendar. Listen carefully to the readings during the next three days.

HOLY THURSDAY celebrates the Lord's Supper. There are several focuses in this one celebration. In some parishes, there is the renewal of priestly vows. There is the presentation to the community of the Holy Oils blessed by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass. There is, of course, the Gospel of the Lord's Supper, but the main focus in the Gospel of the Lord's Supper is the washing of the feet. Yes, it is the celebration of Passover, when Jesus gives us the Eucharist, and it is also when He most emphasizes the need for us to BE the Eucharist to the world through the washing of the feet. Receive what you are, and become what you receive. In some parishes this is done by washing the feet of twelve men who represent the twelve apostles. More and more, parishes have adopted the practice of the community washing the feet of each other to remember symbolically our ministry of service as the priesthood of all believers. The Mass ends with the priest processing the Eucharist out of the Church to the Altar of Repose where it will remain for adoration. We are reminded that tomorrow this night will continue more sadly.

GOOD FRIDAY is the anniversary of Jesus' death. It is a time of quiet and reflection. It is a time of fasting and abstinence. It is also a sign of a hope-filled Gospel of the cross that promises something beyond death. On Good Friday the Eucharist is not celebrated in its usual form. As a matter of fact, the focus is on the Liturgy of the Word with psalms reflecting Christ's suffering and John's Passion. Every year on Good Friday only John's Gospel is read. This evening also ends in silence to reflect on Jesus' suffering and death, but also to reflect that the promise is yet to come.

EASTER VIGIL begins in the dark. It is a time to keep watch. The Easter Vigil starts with a fire. You might think of it as a bonfire around which the strongest symbols of the Church are brought. The Pascal Candle, which is lit from it, is used throughout the year for baptisms and funerals, reminding us of eternal life. The baptismal waters are blessed from which we baptize and "sprinkle" throughout the year. The oils, which were blessed at the Chrism Mass, are brought forward and used for the catechumen at Baptism (Oil of Catechumen) and Confirmation (Chrism Oil).

We hear the stories of our ancestors much as our forefathers have for 2000 years. We start with the story of our creation in the Genesis reading, and the story of Abraham tested by Jesus to sacrifice his son, followed by the Book of Exodus, which reminds us again of God's unfailing love and compassion by saving the Israelites. The readings continue, interspersed by psalms, all reliving for us our history and God's faithfulness. We renew our baptismal vows AND we receive the Elect into the Church. What a great moment! It is our inheritance! It is rich with symbols, smells, and promise.

So, instead of being bored this Easter Vigil by the length of the Mass and wondering when it will ever end, find the richness of your faith. Listen carefully and find the gifts that God has given us throughout history. Remember - give thanks - REJOICE in the Resurrection.

From the "Did You Know" Parish Stewardship series, a collaboration of Fr. Manuel Soria and Monique Figlietti, Chair of Stewardship Ministry in response to a request from the Pastoral Council.