Only one Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday. This special Mass, the Mass of the Lord’s Super takes place in the evening. It is during this Mass that we remember three fundamental mysteries of our Christian Faith.
First, we remember the gift of the Catholic priesthood. Secondly, we remember the gift of the Eucharist. Thirdly, with the Washing of the Feet ceremony, we remember the mandate of the new commandment of love. As a Christian people we are to live our lives with selfless love for all.
At the conclusion of this beautiful Mass, we process solemnly to the Altar of Repose. It is there where the Eucharist remains for our adoration until midnight. We accompany Jesus as he begins his Passion. We pray in reparation for our own personal sins and the sins of the world.
Mass is not offered on this day. Instead, we gather together in our parishes for the Good Friday Solemn Liturgy. This liturgy is comprised of three parts. First, we listen to the Word of God as the Passion is proclaimed. Secondly, we venerate the Cross, the instrument that gained for us our salvation. Thirdly, we receive the Eucharist that was consecrated the night before during the Holy Thursday Mass.
Other moments of prayer can take place during the day such as a directed meditation on the Seven Last Words and the Stations of the Cross.
On this quiet day we accompany the Blessed Virgin Mary as she sorrowfully stood at the tomb of our Lord waiting for the Resurrection. In the evening, we participate in the Easter Vigil, the highlight of the Catholic liturgical year. For us today, Holy Saturday is a time of waiting, of expectation, of longing. For Mary, Mary Magdalene, the Twelve, and Jesus’ other disciples, Holy Saturday was when time stood still. They had no expectation, no longing. They had only confusion and grief, disorientation and loss.
In order to better understand the Easter Vigil, we should focus on four fundamental elements of the Easter Vigil: fire, word, water and bread.
The Easter fire is blessed by the priest celebrant. The Easter candle, representing Christ, is brought into the dark church as the small Easter candles of each parishioner receives the light of Christ. The light of Christ dispels the darkness of sin. We then listen to the chanting of the Easter Proclamation, the Exultet.
“Exultet, let them exult, the hosts of heaven, exult, let Angel ministers of God exult, let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph! Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory flood her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.”
We then attentively listen to the history of salvation through the seven readings of the Old Testament. These readings lead us to the fulfillment of the Old Testament with the New Testament readings from the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans and the Gospel narrative of the Resurrection.
Following the homily, the liturgy of Baptism takes place. The Catechumens are baptized and we renew our baptismal promises. We are sprinkled with the waters of baptism as the joy of Easter begins.
After the liturgy of the Baptism, we then enter into the liturgy of the Eucharist as we normally do during each Mass. The Bread of life fills our souls with the peace that only the Risen Jesus can give us.