My Dear Friends,
Holy Week is upon us. But, this year, Holy Week will be intentionally different. There will not be the glory of Easter weeks of the past. There will be no grand focus on regalia and gold lame¢ fabrics or fringe. We will forgo fancy Bishop’s and their hats and regalia. We will leave behind us the pomp and circumstance, the fanfare, the high decorations and fancy flowers. This year will be intentionally different. This year we won’t worry as much about lace or gold trim or even if our priests have matching vestments. We will not look to anything other than Jesus. We lost Easter last year. So, this year will be intentionally different.
Instead of the focus on things earthy that fail, we will instead look to the things that eternally last. We will dive deeply within ourselves to find the true meaning of Holy Week. We will use the church this year as a mere backdrop to allow the things that have always been to shine through from within. We will journey through the Holy Triduum, not sprint to get it over with. And we will be mindful as we do this that we are still within a global pandemic despite our willingness to take more chances, but not here, not at Saint Miriam. We will honor the over 126,000,000 still ill and certainly the over 2,790,015 worldwide deaths by not becoming haughty or in letting our guard down as we gather to worship. We will honor the almost 550,000 deaths in the United States: our neighbors, our friends, our families, our fellow parishioners, our countrymen by being humble and limiting our movement, our time together within our worship space, and by practicing safe distancing and wearing a mask. If we are truly prolife than we will do so willingly as a sign of our care of others.
Therefore, if I may as a pastor and priest, give some guidance that may help us bring the depth, richness and the beauty of these days to life. On Holy Thursday we will focus on the symbolic foot washing, the Mandatum. We will gaze intently at a simple basin, a pitcher of unassuming water, and a banal towel sat before a man, woman, and a child. To keep everyone safe, we will not open, as in year’s past, to the assembly. Rather, a representative sampling of who we are – gay, straight, white, transgender, divorced, married – the faces of our parish and shared life – is all we will use, but God will be there none-the-less in our simplicity and intent. There will be no sitting in a Chapel of Reservation after we process to Pange Lingua. Instead, the assembly will depart in silence into the darkness and reflect and pray. These measures will allow us to remain safe and to come back again the next afternoon.
Then, upon the shadows of the afternoon sun of Good Friday, we will center our attention on a simple, bright red cloth, dripping from the Altar Crucifix to the slender surface of the main Altar’s embedded relic stone, down her frail edge to the ground, where the blood will puddle for our sin; then, down the center aisle the blood shall flow as we listen to a dramatic reading and watch images of our Lord’s journey to the hardwood of the Cross, for us, the wicked and undeserving. There will be no kissing of the Cross at The Veneration. Only deep bows and kneeling to again keep everyone safe. We will depart, as we did the evening before, in silence and darkness to pray that we will return.
Holy Saturday evening will find us gathered outdoors for The Great Vigil of Easter; too, Holy Saturday will not be as great as in year’s past, but perhaps even more moving and saving and yes, just as splendid. We will sit in darkness after we bless the New Fire. We will dwell on our Salvific History surrounded by darkness pierced by the single light of the Paschal Candle, “The Sun of Justice”, and wonder how a God could save the likes of you and me. We will raise the lights at The Gloria and then march triumphantly as a people into the New Testament and Gospel proclaiming what we knew would come: Jesus lives! We will renew our Baptismal Covenant but not baptize or confirm, not this year. This year we will remain dedicated to staying on point to keep us safe and honor life by remaining vigilant.
St. Francis once said, “Great and glorious God, and Thou Lord Jesus, I pray you shed abroad your light in the darkness of my mind. Be found of me, Lord, so that in all things I may act only in accordance with Thy holy will.”
May it be so as we gather simply into the Presence of God this Holy Week. This year will be intentionally different.
God’s peace and coming to you and yours,
Monsignor +Jim, Pastor