Last week was typically hectic for Holy Week. Kicking off with the Palm Sunday liturgies, we brought the great season of Lent to a quiet close with the weekday Masses. For me, it was a quick, uneventful and yet rewarding Lent, and I was surprised that it had reached it's end.
I attended the Chrism Mass on Thursday morning at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg. It was the first for our new bishop, Bishop Ed Malesic, who with his usual prayerful yet personable style truly got into the celebration. The oils were blessed and distributed, the priests were gathered and affirmed in their priestly renewal before the people, the Word was broken open and we were inspired by the bishop's words (he spoke of many things, with one being an awareness of the sense of smell - Chrism has a distinctive smell to it which the bishop called a "churchy smell" - and spoke of a new priest in Harrisburg who was photographed smelling his newly anointed hands after ordination [the bishop posted the picture on his facebook]). We had a great turnout of priests and people, and another great celebration of the love of God for us all.
Later the evening we began the Triduum at the parish with the Mass of the Lord's Supper. I love this liturgy for its simplicity and beauty. Some of us travel by bus to a number of churches [St. Robert in East McKeesport and St. Coleman in Turtle Creek, both in the Pittsburgh Diocese] for visits to the altars of repose, and ended up for dessert before returning home. I must admit that I backed out of the trip this year because of the need to rest and regain my strength, but those who went were blessed.
The Good Friday Service was not one of my favorites for years, mainly because I was always concerned with time and getting things right. But for a number of years now I have resolved those issues and find it to be a powerful time of reflection and grace. I am especially moved by the veneration of the Cross by the people. We use a very large wooden Cross, and because of my mobility problems, I have four parishioners carry the Cross into the church for our veneration. Their reverence in procession, and watching the faces of those who come forward to kiss, touch, bow or genuflect before, or just gaze upon the Cross is inspiring.
We in the parish gathered in the evening at 8:30 for the Service of Tenebrae, a great way to end the day. I had friends who joined us from Greensburg, as they do nearly every year.
Our Easter Vigil began at 8:30 pm on Saturday, and this year, for the first time since I have been a pastor, we did not do all nine readings. The reason was simple, my stamina was the culprit. But the readings that we chose, the three young people that I had the honor of baptizing, and our joyous Easter celebration provided a tremendous Easter experience.
Easter morning saw big crowds at the 8:30 & 11:00 Masses. If only it could be like that all of the time. By the time the afternoon arrived, I was ready for a nap, exhausted by happy, celebrating with the Church the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.