Here we are in Holy Week… On Sunday we accompanied our Lord into Jerusalem: “Come, come, let us go up together to the Mount of Olives. Together let us meet Christ, who is returning today from Bethany and going of his own accord to that holy and blessed passion to complete the mystery of our salvation” (St Andrew of Crete, from the Office of Readings for Palm Sunday).
In the parish, this week is quiet as everything is prepared – but there is a sense of great anticipation. On Sunday we entered the last stage of a journey that leads inescapably through Christ’s Death to his Resurrection. It is an intense journey for all of us as Catholics, but most especially for those who will be baptised (or received into the Church) into these Mysteries – His Death and Resurrection – at the Easter Vigil.
Last night, we had the rehearsal for the Vigil with the candidates who will be received. They are approaching the moments they have been waiting for and preparing for, now for over a year! We began the rehearsal outside the church where the Paschal fire will be, and walked through the steps of the whole Mass, our parish priest explaining the richness of the symbols. By Good Friday, the church will be completely empty – there will be nothing to bring us inside on Saturday evening – no images, no candles, no holy water, no music…no Jesus! It will be an empty shell, a silent tomb… The Church is reminding us liturgically of what we have without Christ: nothing. Everything is stripped away. We are completely bereft. Even the lights are gone, we are left in darkness.
That is how the catechumens and candidates come to the Easter Vigil… With nothing, glaringly aware of their emptiness without Christ.
And then, throughout the Liturgy, Christ through the Church’s Liturgy pours out upon them and us grace upon grace: firstly, light – little by little it fills the church; we hear the story of our salvation from Creation onwards – the Story that the candidates know well by now, and hopefully know as their own ‘family history’; then music returns with the Gloria, the Alleluias are sung as if we can’t sing them enough, bells are rung… Christ unmistakably rises and the Church is filled with joy. This joy especially fills the hearts of those being baptised or received, as they are drawn into this great, incredible Mystery… It’s a Mystery they have been hearing about for over a year and now it is fully theirs.
You might be able to tell… I am pretty excited about the weekend! This week, I am increasing my prayer for the candidates who we – the priests, catechists and sponsors – have led to this point. I have a feeling it’s going to be a beautiful, joy-filled Night…