Liturgical journey through the passion of Jesus Christ

A journey from darkness into the light and hope of Jesus’ resurrection.

That journey – through Good Friday and Holy Saturday to the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday – is rich with symbolism to help the faithful experience the season, said Father Harold Buse, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue.

No Mass is celebrated on Good Friday. The focus is on the cross and Jesus’ passion, and Communion is distributed from hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday, Father Buse said. The main altar is bare, and in some churches, statues and crucifixes are veiled, holy water is removed.

"It’s about creating an atmosphere of emptiness, abandonment and desolation that the apostles felt after Jesus’ crucifixion," Father Buse said.

"Good Friday is one of my favorite ceremonies all year long because it’s unique and because of the powerful symbolism of reading the Passion, special petitions and the veneration of the cross," he said.

"As I observe people coming to that service, I can see they are there because they choose to be, since it’s not a holy day of obligation," Father Buse said. "Their hearts are totally in that prayer, and it’s powerful seeing them venerating the cross – the essential symbol of our faith and salvation."

As the service ends, people are encouraged to leave church in silence, reflecting on what took place and continuing in that spirit when they return home, he said.

Holy Saturday continues in that spirit – it is a day of waiting, Father Buse said. No Mass is celebrated and no Communion is distributed during the day, except viaticum (Communion for the dying).

But by evening, the mood shifts as the Easter Vigil begins after sundown.

"The Easter Vigil begins in darkness, representing the presence of sin and in some sense, the absence of God or a lack of hope," Father Buse said. "But then, the Easter candle is lit and light pierces the darkness," and the light spreads throughout the church as people also light candles.

An environment of new life fills the church, he said, with light, water that is blessed, the sight and scent of flowers, joyful singing. "The sights, the sounds, the smells permeate the senses with signs of new life."

That also is seen as the church welcomes new members being baptized and receiving the sacraments of initiation, Father Buse said.

"The church has new life because it’s begetting new members who are filled with faith and enthusiasm. People witnessing this can also find their faith supported and strengthened."

At Easter Sunday Masses, people experience some of the same aspects of the Easter Vigil, through music, decorations and the renewal of their baptismal promises, he said.

"We celebrate the greatest mystery of our Catholic faith – Jesus’ death and resurrection, the source of our salvation and our hope."

"Easter itself is celebrated for an entire week," Father Buse said. "We celebrate each day during the octave of Easter as if it is Easter day. We use the same special prayers used for the Easter Mass, highlighting the importance of the feast itself.

"And this week is only the beginning as the church celebrates the ‘Great 50 Days’ of Easter, which includes Ascension Thursday and ends with Pentecost," Father Buse said.

"Easter is the high liturgical point of our year, and therefore, we celebrate it in the greatest way possible," he said.

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