On Holy Thursday is the Last Supper and the institution of both the Priesthood and the Holy Mass. The priest washes the feet of his parishioners. Holy Mass is served for the last time for 48 hours. The consecrated Hosts are removed from the tabernacle and moved to a side altar. The main altar is stripped. Candles are extinguished. The Betrayal of Our Lord is retold. All is a terrible waiting for that most painful of sacrifices for our sinful souls.
On Good Friday, we again walk the Way of the Cross and experience the Flagellation, the Crucifixion and that most terrible and most merciful of Hours, the Hour of Mercy at 3 pm in which our Beloved Lord and Savior dies for our sakes. We meditate on our Savior's seven last words. We mourn for Our Lord and repent of the awful sins that have caused Him his Agony. The darkened church sits in its hush, waiting... waiting for the Resurrection.
Saturday at sundown, the large fire is ignited outside. The priest blesses the fire and the Paschal candle is lit by the blessed fire; while lighting the Paschal candle, the priest says: "May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds."
Lifting the Paschal candle the priest chants: "Christ our light". We respond: "Thanks be to God."
Processing into the darkened church, the priest chants a second time: "Christ our light". We respond: "Thanks be to God."
Once inside at the back of the church, the priest chants a third time: "Christ our light". We respond: "Thanks be to God." We then begin the lighting of our wee candles from the Paschal candle. We turn and light the candle of the person next to us, thus symbolizing the passing on of the Good News, our salvation as Christ is Resurrected. The fire of candles spreads throughout the whole congregation reminding us of the Light and Fire of the Gospel and the once darkened church comes alive with the Light of Christ.
The priest then prays:
We respond: And also with you.
- My dearest friends, standing with me in this holy light, join me in asking God for mercy, that he may give his unworthy minister grace to sing his Easter praises. The Lord be with you.
- Lift up your hearts.
We respond: It is right to give Him thanks and praise.
- Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
The priest continues:
It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father, and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.And so the Mass of Easter begins. Next are the readings of Scripture with the Liturgy of the Word of God. The altar is dressed once again, the choir sings aloud after 3 days of silence. The Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist is chanted once more. All is rejoicing for the Resurrection of the Son of God.
For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!
This is our passover feast, when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain, whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.
This is the night when first you saved our fathers: you freed the people of Israel from their slavery and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of that sin!
This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son....
Let us praise Our God, and in all ways give thanks!