Altar of Repose – In this ritual at the Holy Thursday Mass, the Blessed Sacrament (the remaining hosts that were consecrated at Mass) is not returned to the tabernacle (the gold cabinet that sits to the right of the altar). It remains on the altar and then in a solemn procession is taken to an “altar of repose” where it is reserved for Communion on Good Friday. There will be no Mass on Good Friday. For the procession the priest puts on what is called a “humeral veil” (a garment, usually gold in color worn around the shoulders and extending down the arms with pockets for the priest’s hands to slip into) as a sign of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament that he will carry. The altar of repose here at St. Francis Xavier is in the music room. All are invited to stop by Thursday evening to spend time in Adoration until 10 PM. After reserving the Blessed Sacrament, the priest and servers return to the church for:
Stripping of the Altar - This is the final act at the Holy Thursday Mass. All removable items are taken from the sanctuary (the area where the altar is), including the processional cross. The tabernacle is left open as a sign of the absence of the Body of Christ. Mass will not be celebrated again until the Easter Vigil.
Good Friday – The word good originated from the word “goode” which means holy. This day we gather for a service (not Mass) known liturgically as “Friday of the Passion of the
Lord.” Communion is offered from the Mass on Holy Thursday: the Blessed Sacrament that was taken to the “altar of repose.” On this day is read once again the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John.
Laying Prostrate – The Good Friday service begins in silence as the priest, deacon(s) and servers enter and lay prostrate on the floor in front of the altar. This is an act of homage and adoration to the Lord. There is no need for a “gathering song” as the Good Friday service is seen as an extension of the Mass from Holy Thursday. In fact, the Triduum (or “three days”) is seen as one liturgy from Holy Thursday through the Easter Vigil. Following the silent entry and prostration is the Liturgy of the Word – the Readings, Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel.
The Ten Solemn Intercessions – These prayers are one of the oldest liturgical rituals we have – for centuries the people of the Church have shared in public prayer. The priest invites us to pray, stating what we are praying for, we respond in silence (and reflection), which is then followed with a prayer by the presider to which we respond Amen (I believe). In these prayers, we ask for God’s grace to address the needs of all people. Immediately following the intercessions all are invited to take part in: Veneration or Adoration of the Cross – A cross is now carried into Church as the priest states three times, ”This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world.” We answer, “Come, let us worship.” The cross is then placed or held where all can access it and the people come forward in procession to genuflect, bow, kiss or touch the cross as a sign of reverence for this symbol of our salvation. Following veneration we receive the Body of Christ in Communion. There is no cup as there is no consecration. The service on Good Friday ends in silence (no bells or organ) as we await the celebration of new life at the Easter Vigil. It is even suggested that people use a soft voice when speaking to one another. This would be an excellent time to silence TVs, radios and electronic devices as a sign of reverence for how Jesus died for us. We will next gather as a People of God at the Easter Vigil.
Easter Vigil – This is the most important liturgical celebration of the Catholic Church! We begin in darkness – our world is dark without Jesus. New light is then introduced in the way of an enclosed fire at the entry of the Church. Here at St. Francis Xavier all are invited into the Gathering Place to take part in the procession of new light. As each person is gifted light for the candle they hold, our world becomes bright – This is the Light of Christ!
Easter or Paschal Candle – Every Catholic Church blesses a large, beautifully decorated candle which becomes what we know as the “Christ Light” for their parish. This Light stands as a symbol of Jesus – The Light of the World. The priest proclaims; “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, all time belongs to Him and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age and forever.” It is from this candle that the newly baptized will be gifted with The Light of Christ.
On this most holy night we hear Scripture proclaimed in narrative and song that recounts for us the heritage of our faith found in the Old Testament; beginning with Creation, we journey with the Israelites (our Jewish ancestors) as God reveals himself to mankind. The Readings inspire and deepen our faith and our awareness of God’s plan for our salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Then we Rejoice! Jesus Lives!
The bells will toll; the Church will fill with light and with abundant jubilation:
We will sing and honor God in the Gloria!
We will proclaim the risen Lord with Alleluia!
We will bless new water and renew our baptismal
We will celebrate Baptism, Confirmation and the
And we will welcome new members into the Body of
As you can see, Holy Week offers Catholics rich and meaningful ritual that invites participation and deepens our relationship with Jesus. Together, we experience the Paschal
Mystery: the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although Holy Thursday and Good Friday are not Holy Days of Obligation, they can indeed be holy days. Please make plans now to attend and experience what you have learned here with your children and grandchildren, no matter their age. Let it be your gift of faith to them this Easter! In anticipation of the Resurrection,
He Would Love First!
October 24, 2020
A July Faith Formation Series – Part IV – APOSTOLIC