Thursday, April 05, 2012

Holy Week: Waiting in the Wings

Holy Week at the parish of St John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, is an awesome thing, where the "neo- traditional" approach to the liturgical life is the gold standard. Even if the "ordinary form" is used, the altar is "versus orientem" for the three days, and Latin and English co-exist peacefully.

The Sacred Triduum is preceded by the service of Tenebrae on Wednesday evening. Two hundred people join the clergy, seminarians, and altar servers in witnessing the dimming of the lights, to await the Light of the World in the three days that follow. Imagine the sight of dozens of altar servers processing in, two by two. It begins with the crucifer and candle-bearers, followed by the very young, appearing quite cherubic in their surplices and black cassocks. The older servers follow in their maroon cassocks and pleated surplices. Then come the seminarians and deacons of the parish. Finally, the master of ceremonies leads the parish priests, as the procession of nearly one hundred clerics and laics converge upon the Holy of Holies. It is from there that the time of darkness and lamentation begins, followed by the hearing of confessions.

Tonight is the "Cena Domini" or Mass of the Lord's Supper. The original meal shared by the disciples, the sacrificial offering that took place in the twenty-four hours that followed, all will be re-presented in the presence of the faithful. The pastor will remove his outer priestly vestments, put on an apron, and wash the feet of twelve young men who serve him at the altar of God during the year. "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve."

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