JACKSON – In the early developments of church structure as Christianity began to spread into Europe in the first few centuries after it became legal in the Roman Empire, the Cathedral was the focal point of church life. Clergy were stationed at the Cathedral and would visit the mission areas during the week for liturgy. The central liturgical life of the local church revolved around large Sunday liturgies with the bishop as celebrant.
Though our church has grown worldwide and dioceses have expanded to far reaching boundaries, the faithful gathered around the bishop in the cathedral remains an important tradition in the liturgical life of the church.
This year, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will lead a full week of liturgies in the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle and invites the faithful to join him.
On Tuesday, April 15, at 5:45 p.m. Bishop Kopacz will celebrate the Mass of Chrism, where with the presbyterate gathered around him, he will bless the oils of catechumens and the sick and consecrate the Sacred Chrism. These oils presented to parish representatives will be taken back to home parishes and used throughout the year to anoint the sick and baptize infants and adults. The clergy will renew their priestly commitment at this Mass as well.
At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, Bishop Kopacz will lead the Office of Tenebrae, an ancient part of the Liturgy of the Hours. Tenebrae, which means shadows or darkness in Latin, reflects on the sufferings of Jesus Christ while offering a glimmer of hope at the end in the one remaining lighted candle.
Tenebrae is a very moving ceremony that features readings from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, psalms and hymns on the cross and crown of thorns. After each reading, a candle on the altar is extinguished until only one is left burning.
Tenebrae is an excellent opportunity to bring your Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) elect and candidates to the Cathedral to participate in a unique ceremony of solemn prayer and reflection.
The Sacred Triduum begins and Lent officially ends with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. on Holy Thursday. This year on April 17, the Mass is filled with rituals and symbols revolving around the true meaning of the Eucharist – sacrifice and service. The Gospel reading from John is the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus. In the liturgy, 12 feet are washed by the priest who in the image of Christ reflects the servant hood of being a follower of Jesus. At this liturgy a second ciborium of hosts is consecrated for distribution on Good Friday.
The final movement of the Holy Thursday liturgy is the transfer of the ciborium by procession to an area separate from the main altar perhaps even in another building. This area should be decorated with flowers to reflect the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray and was ultimately betrayed and also to foreshadow the garden tomb. The faithful are asked to pray with the Lord in the garden then leave in silence.
Good Friday, April 18, 5:30 p.m., is once again an ancient ritual – one of the oldest in the church’s centuries old liturgical tradition. The altar is bare, stripped of all ornamentation and the liturgy begins in silence. The starkness of the church is quite striking.
St. John’s passion narrative is read then, after the universal prayer of the church, a cross is processed to the altar for veneration. In this moving moment we are able to touch or kiss the cross knowing that so many have had trials and struggles in their lives throughout the past year.
Contrasting the starkness of Good Friday, the Easter Vigil at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 19, and Easter Sunday Masses lift us from despair because we know the tomb is empty and the Lord has risen.