By Tony DeGol
Catholics throughout the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown are preparing to immerse themselves in liturgical celebrations throughout Holy Week, the most solemn week on the Church calendar.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, which recalls Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as He was greeted by people waving palm branches and chanting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Bishop Mark will celebrate the Mass of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion at 11:00 a.m. at Saint John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown. The Mass will be broadcast live on WATM ABC 23 and rebroadcast Palm Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. on Breezeline channel 9.
On Monday of Holy Week, clergy, religious, and laity of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown will gather for the Chrism Mass at 11:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona. During the liturgy, Bishop Mark will bless the sacred oils that will be distributed to all parishes in the diocese for use in the coming year. Also during the Mass, priests of the diocese reaffirm their commitment to priestly service. All are invited to this beautiful diocesan celebration.
The Sacred Triduum begins on the evening of Holy Thursday, as Catholics gather for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The liturgy commemorates Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. It was then that He established Holy Communion and instituted the priesthood. During the Lord’s Last Supper, He washed the feet of His disciples – an act carried out at local parishes as priests wash the feet of parishioners, mirroring Jesus’ command to serve others. After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at most parishes, faithful are invited to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, just as the Lord’s disciples were asked to keep vigil with Christ. Bishop Mark will celebrate the Mass on Holy Thursday, April 14, at 6:00 p.m. at Saint John Gualbert Cathedral.
Good Friday is the one day of the year when the Mass is not celebrated in the Catholic Church. Faithful, rather, gather to celebrate the passion of the Lord, usually during an afternoon service which opens in silence. Those in attendance are invited to come forward to venerate the cross, and Holy Communion is distributed. Some parishes pray the Stations of the Cross later in the day or in the evening. Bishop Mark will preside at the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion at Noon at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
The great Easter Vigil occurs on Holy Saturday – the high point of the Triduum – as we celebrate Jesus’ glorious victory over death. This year, vigil Masses are not to begin before 8:00 p.m. The Easter Vigil is divided into four parts: the service of light when the Easter fire is blessed and the pascal candle is lit; the Liturgy of the Word when we listen to some of the best readings of the Church; Christian Initiation when we welcome our brothers and sisters in the faith and renew our own Baptismal promises; and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Bishop Mark will celebrate the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on April 16 at 8:00 p.m.
The Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection is celebrated on Easter Sunday. During the liturgy, the faithful are invited to renew their Baptismal promises. Bishop Mark will celebrate the Easter Mass on April 17 at 11:00 a.m. at Saint John Gualbert Cathedral, which will be broadcast live on WATM ABC 23 and rebroadcast that evening at 9:00 p.m. on Breezeline channel 9.
The Triduum concludes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.