"We're going to church AGAIN!?"
By Easter Sunday, many children around the Archdiocese of Toronto will utter the words above. Maybe a few adults, too.
The Easter weekend, also known as the Triduum, is the most important time of year in the Church calendar. It is the time for us to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, without which we would have no Salvation. It's sort of a big deal.
Take a minute and open up the Old Testament. There's locusts, famines and a whole lot of other reasons to be thankful that Jesus came to give us New Life and open up the gates of Heaven at the moment of his death:
And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. – Matthew 27:51-52
The church-going "marathon" begins on Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord's Supper, featuring the washing of the feet (John 13:1-15). After the Holy Thursday Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the church and the tabernacle remains empty until the Easter Vigil.
Then comes Good Friday, when we commemorate the Lord's Passion (John 18:1 – 19:42) at the Good Friday service. This is the one day of the year when the Church does not celebrate any Masses.
Saturday night at sundown begins the Easter Vigil. The liturgy includes seven Old Testament readings, each followed by a psalm and two New Testament readings (although some parishes choose a shorter version of the liturgy with only three Old Testament readings). The Easter Vigil is also when new Catholics are received into the Church.
If you can't make it to the Easter Vigil, or if you feel so inclined, there are also Easter Masses on Sunday morning (but it is not required to attend both the Vigil and a Sunday Mass).
Yes, that is a lot of time at church. It's a lot of standing and can present a unique challenge to families with young children and the elderly.
Maybe you haven't been to church in a while. Maybe you're worried your child is going to have a tantrum. Maybe you don't feel like you belong in a congregation with "good church people." Maybe you aren't well enough to stand the whole time.
No matter how long you can stand, who you are, what you've done or how long you've been gone: you are most welcome to celebrate with your family of faith this weekend!
Jesus being on the cross is the ultimate symbol that all are welcome. He knew we were (and would continue to be) imperfect, yet He still paid the ultimate price so we could have eternal life.
At the Easter Vigil we will hear a reading that proclaims this truth:
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.
This Easter, you are invited to come as you are. Perhaps life has left you thirsting. That's because we weren't made for this life. Entering into Jesus' passion, death and resurrection, we are reminded that we were made for Eternity, our true home.
Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
(Isaiah 55: 1)
As always, we are thankful for the care provided by the many clergy, religious and laypeople during this weekend and throughout the year to make our community vibrant and welcoming.
Marlena Loughheed is a communications coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Public Relations and Communications.