Tag Archives: Paschal mystery


Catholic ceremonies and liturgy

“The unique source from which all acts of [Catholic Christian] worship derive their merit and efficacy is the Paschal Mystery of our Lord, Jesus Christ . All other acts of [Catholic Christian] worship radiate from it as from their centre; all hymns of praise revolve around it. The Paschal Mystery embraces the death, resurrection and ascension into glory of our Saviour . These are three inseparable aspects of the one and same mystery whereby Christ has redeemed us and reconciled us to His Father, restoring all things in Himself.His passion and death would have no significance if He did not rise to life. He could rise only if He had first died.

‘Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?’ (Luke 24:46).

His resurrection gives meaning to His death: His victory over death and sin. The cross represents the triumph of our Saviour over the power of evil; His resurrection is the testimony of His Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice as an adequate expiation for man’s sin and of our restoration to our heritage as children of God; His ascension is a pledge that we shall rise with Him and ascend with Him to share His glory. Our reconciliation with the Father is in and through ‘Jesus who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us,’ (Rom. 4:25).

To complete this work of reconciliation Christ sent the Holy Spirit into the Church, into the hearts of men. The sending of this divine Gift is necessarily and directly related to the Paschal Mystery. Indeed, all the events of our Lord’s life on earth from His conception in the womb of His virgin mother; the whole history of God’s revelation and manifestations to man from the creation of the world; the fruits of redemption to be communicated to man until the end of time; all praise, all thanksgiving – all are directed to or derive from this mystery.

In brief, this mystery embraces the passing of our Redeemer from death to risen life and glory through the cross, resurrection and ascension and all in sacred history that led up to this consummation and which will result from it. This in all its fulness is what we understand by the Paschal Mystery.”

“Prayer, and more especially prayer of praise and thanksgiving , is an act of worship to God. Liturgical prayer is the public homage of praise and thanksgiving given by the Church and its member to God, our Creator, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ . More precisely, it is the worship which our Saviour, through the ministry of His Church, gives to His Father in the name and on behalf of the Church and each of its members. It is, then, the praise and thanksgiving given to God by the Body of Christ, Head and members , ‘through, with and in’ Jesus Christ.

This liturgical worship comprises the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the sacraments and sacramentals, and the divine office. We participate in this worship of our Father by assisting at these rites.”

– From: Saint Columba Breviary, 1970 (the text in inverted commas)


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


So, on Palm Sunday, with the chant of ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ we seem to enter another world.


“The week before Easter, now commonly called Holy Week (in the missal it is ‘Hebdomada maior’) is not only the most sacred time of the year; liturgically it forms an exception to the normal course of church functions in many ways. Indeed these great days stand out from all the rest of the year, with their rites unlike anything we are accustomed to see in church. It is true that some of the services, as for instance the Mass on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday, are not so very different from Mass on other days; but even they have many noticeable peculiarities; other services, such as those of Good Friday and Holy Saturday morning, are quite unlike anything else. To the student of liturgy these days, as no others, are full of interest for the history of our Roman rite in the past.

Perhaps the first thing to note about Holy Week is that it is part of the same feast as Easter Week following. We must think of all that fortnight, from Palm Sunday to Low Sunday, as one event. The whole fortnight makes up the Easter feast, the ‘paschalia solemnia,’ in which we remember, each year, our redemption by the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. It is true that the character of these two weeks seems as different as anything could be. Holy Week is the time of mourning, the saddest week of the year, the Easter octave the most joyful. Yet they belong together; we should think of them as the two halves of one whole. The change from the mourning of Holy Week to the joy of Easter, taking place in the middle of the function of Holy Saturday, is of the essence of this Paschal solemnity. It was so at the first Easter. Our Lord said to the disciples of Emmaus: ‘Was it not necessary that Christ should suffer these things, and so enter into his glory?’ (Luke, xxiv, 26). So now, as we remember the story of our Redemption, we too, following him, pass during the one feast from the mournful memory of his suffering to the joyful memory of his glory.

The reason why this Paschal feast is the greatest of all is not so much because it is the remembrance of certain events in our Lord’s life, as that these events mean our Redemption. After our belief in the existence of God, nothing in the Christian religion is more fundamental than the idea that we are redeemed by the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross; this is the very heart of all our religion.

And we must understand too that his Resurrection is just as much part of our Redemption as his pain and death. ‘Christ was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification’ (Rom. iv, 25). The Resurrection is the great witness of Christ’s mission, without which no one would have believed in him, no one would have received the fruit of his suffering. So the Apostles say: ‘If Christ has not risen again, our preaching is vain, vain is your faith’ (1 Cor. xv, 14). The Church always looks upon the Resurrection as an integral part of our Redemption, as much as the cross. What the Apostles preached was not only Christ crucified, it was ‘Christ Jesus who died and who rose again’ (Rom. viii, 34); we believe in ‘Jesus who died and rose again’ (1 Thes. iv, 14), and so on throughout the New Testament.

Inevitably then, the early Church took all this, the memory of the Crucifixion, and of the Resurrection, as one thing. In every Mass the solemn remembrance of our redemption is of ‘the blessed passion and Resurrection from the dead of Christ thy Son, our Lord,’ and, as completing the idea of the Resurrection, also of his ‘glorious ascension into heaven.’ Inevitably too the Church makes the memory of these things the cardinal feast of all the year. More important than Christmas, greater than Pentecost, standing out from all other feast and memories, towering above the normal course of the year is this great Paschal solemnity around the Sunday after the first Spring full moon. No wonder that five-sixth of the year revolves around Easter [from Septuagesima to Advent]; no wonder that these days are unlike any other. And this Paschal feast begins on Palm Sunday and lasts till Low Sunday. The Easter octave has fewer liturgical peculiarities than the former week; it needs less explanation of its ceremonies; but it is all part of one solemnity.

So, on Palm Sunday, with the chant of [‘Hosanna to the Son of David’] we seem to enter another world. All the usual course of Saints’ days is laid aside; no other thought may disturb the yearly remembrance of our Redemption. One would like to spend these days in something in something of the nature of a retreat. That is not possible for most people. But at least, we should, as far as we can, leave behind our usual cares, at the threshold of Palm Sunday, to take them up again when we come out of the grat days after Low Sunday.

Symbols of this exceptional time are the strange rites we see then in church.

The rites of Holy Week consist chiefly of three main elements, from which others follow. The first is the blessing of palms and procession on Palm Sunday, the second the fact that no Mass is said on Good Friday, though the celebrant makes his Communion on that day, the third the Easter vigil and anticipation of Easter on Holy Saturday. The fourth element, Tenebrae, is less of an exception than it may seem.”
– Adrian Fortescue, from “The Holy Week Book”, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1913


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


• “QUESTION: I heard a priest in a sermon recently mention the term ‘paschal mystery.’ I had heard it mentioned on other occasions but this time it hit me that I really did not understand what it means. I am fairly sure that there are others like me. Would you be kind enough to answer this question in your ‘question box’.

• ANSWER: Thank you for your question. Like you I think there are many who may not fully understand its meaning. Briefly – The Paschal Mystery is the greatest event of the Christian Faith – it is ‘the passion, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost.’

It reflects the Jewish Passover which is God’s act of delivering the Jewish People from Egypt. In the ‘Paschal Mystery’ Christ ‘passed over’ to the Father in His passion, death, resurrection and ascension drawing all humankind with Him. We celebrate the Paschal Mystery during Holy Week and the Easter Season and indeed every time we offer Mass which makes present again the one eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
– This article was published in “Saint Martin Magazine” issue March 2004. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,



According to a most ancient tradition, this night is ‘one of vigil for the Lord’, and the Vigil celebrated during it, to commemorate that Holy night when the Lord rose from the dead, is regarded as the ‘mother of all Holy vigils’. For in that night the Church keeps vigil, waiting for the resurrection of the Lord, and celebrates the sacraments of Christian initiation.


‘The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday’. This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Those abuses and practices which have crept in many places in violation of this ruling, whereby the Easter Vigil is celebrated at the time of day that is customary to celebrate anticipated Sunday Masses are reprehensible. Those reasons which have been advanced in some quarters for the anticipation of the Easter Vigil, such as lack of public order, are not put forward in connection with Christmas night, nor other gatherings of various kinds.

The Passover Vigil, in which the Hebrews kept watch for the Lord’s passover which was to free them from slavery to Pharaoh, is an annual commemoration. It prefigured the true Pasch of Christ that was to come, the night that is of true liberation, in which ‘destroying the bonds of death, Christ rose as victor from the depths’.

From the very outset the Church has celebrated that annual Pasch, which is the solemnity of solemnities, above all by means of a night vigil. For the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope, and through Baptism and Confirmation we are inserted into the paschal mystery of Christ, dying, buried, and raised with him, and with him we shall also reign. The full meaning of Vigil is a waiting for the coming of the Lord.


The order for the Easter Vigil is so arranged that after the service of light and the Easter proclamation (which is the first part of the Vigil), Holy Church meditates on the wonderful works which the Lord God wrought for his people from the earliest times (the second part or Liturgy of the Word), to the moment when, together with those new members reborn in Baptism (third part), she is called to the table prepared by the Lord for his Church, the commemoration of his death and resurrection, until he comes (fourth part). This Liturgical Order must not be changed by anyone on his own initiative.

The first part consists of symbolic acts and gestures, which require that they be performed in all their fullness and nobility, so that their meaning, as explained by the introductory words of the celebrant and the liturgical prayers, may be truly understood by the faithful.

In so far as possible, a suitable place should be prepared outside the church for the blessing of the new fire, whose flames should be such that they genuinely dispel the darkness and light up the night.

The paschal candle should be prepared in advance. For effective symbolism it must be made of wax, never be artificial, be renewed each year, be only one in number, and be of sufficiently large size so that it may evoke the truth that Christ is the light of the world. It is blessed with the signs and words prescribed in the Missal or by the Conference of Bishops.

The Procession in which the people enter the church should be led by the light of the paschal candle alone. Just as the children of Israel were guided by night by a pillar of fire, so similarly Christians follow the risen Christ. There is no reason why to each response ‘Thanks be to God’ there should not be added some acclamation in honour of Christ.

The light from the paschal candle should be gradually passed to the candles which it is fitting that all present should hold in their hands, the electric lighting being switched off.

The Deacon makes the Easter proclamation, which tells by means of a great poetic text the whole Easter mystery in the context of the economy of salvation. In case of necessity, where there is no deacon, and the celebrating priest is unable to sing it, a cantor may do so. Bishops’ Conferences may adapt this proclamation by inserting into it acclamations from the people.

The readings from sacred scripture constitute the second part of the Vigil. They give an account of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation, which the faithful are helped to meditate calmly upon by the singing of the responsorial psalm, by a silent pause and by the celebrant’s prayer.

The restored Order for the Vigil has seven readings from the Old Testament chosen from the Law and the Prophets, which are everywhere in use according to the most ancient tradition of East and West, and two readings from the New Testament, namely from the Apostle and from the Gospel. Thus the Church, ‘beginning with Moses and all the Prophets’ explains Christ’s paschal mystery. Consequently, wherever this is possible, all the readings should be read so that the character of the Easter Vigil, which demands that it be somewhat prolonged, be respected at all costs.

Where, however, pastoral conditions require that the number of readings be reduced, there should be at least three readings from the Old Testament, taken from the Law and the Prophets; and the reading from Exodus chapter 14 with its canticle must never be omitted.

The typological import of the Old Testament texts is rooted in the New, and is made plain by the prayer pronounced by the celebrating priest after each reading; but it will also be helpful to introduce the people to the meaning of each reading by means of a brief introduction. This introduction may be given by the priest himself or by a deacon.

National or diocesan liturgical commissions will prepare aids for pastors.

Each reading is followed by the singing of a psalm, to which the people respond.

Melodies should be provided for these responses which are capable of promoting the people’s participartion and devotion.

Great care is to be taken that trivial songs do not take the place of the psalms.

After the readings from the Old Testament, the hymn ‘Gloria in excelsis’ is sung and the bells are rung in accordance with local custom; then the collect is recited, and the celebration moves on to the readings from the New Testament. There is read an exhortation from the Apostle on Baptism as insertion into Christ’s paschal mystery.

Then all stand and the priest intones the ‘Alleluia’ three times, each time raising the pitch. The people repeat after him. If it is necessary, the psalmist or cantor may sing the ‘Alleluia’, which the people then take up as an acclamation to be interjected between the verses of psalm 117, which is so often cited by the Apostles in their Easter preaching. Finally, the Resurrection of the Lord is proclaimed from the Gospel as the high point of the whole Liturgy of the Word. After the Gospel a homily is to be given, no matter how brief.

The third part of the Vigil is the baptismal liturgy. Christ’s passover and ours is now celebrated. This is given full expression in those churches which have a baptismal font, and more so when the Christian initiation of adults is held, or at least the Baptism of infants. Even if there are no candidates for Baptism, the blessing of Baptismal water should still take place in parish churches. If this blessing does not take place at the baptismal font but in the sanctuary, baptismal water should be carried afterwards to the baptistry there to be kept throughout the whole of paschal time. Where there are neither candidates for Baptism nor any need to bless the font, Baptism should be commemorated by blessing of water destined for sprinkling upon the people.

Next follows the renewal of baptismal promises, introduced by some words from the celebrating priest. The faithful reply to the questions put to them, standing and holding lighted candles in their hands. They are then sprinkled with water: in this way gestures and words recall to them the Baptism they have received. The celebrating priest sprinkles the people by passing through the main part of the church while all sing the antiphon ‘Vidi aquam’ or another suitable song of a baptismal character.

The celebration of the Eucharist forms the fourth part of the Vigil and marks its high point, for it is in the fullest sense the Easter Sacrament, that is to say the commemoration of the sacrifice of the Cross and the presence of the risen Christ, the completion of Christian initiation, and the foretaste of the eternal pasch.

Great care should be taken that this Eucharistic Liturgy is not celebrated in haste; indeed, all the rites and words must be given their full force – the General Intercessions in which for the first time the neophytes now as members of the faithful exercise their priesthood; the procession at the offertory in which the neophytes, if there are any, take part; the first, second or third Eucharistic Prayer, preferably sung, with their proper embolisms; and finally, Eucharistic Communion, as the moment of full participation in the mystery that is being celebrated. It is appropriate that at Communion there be sung psalm 117 with the antiphon ‘Pascha nostrum’, or psalm 33 with the antiphon ‘Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia’, or some other song of Easter exultation.

It is fitting that in the Communion of the Easter Vigil full expression be given to the symbolism of the Eucharist, namely by consuming the Eucharist under the species of both bread and wine. Local Ordinaries will consider the appropriateness of such a concession and its ramifications.


The Easter Vigil Liturgy should be celebrated in such a way as to offer to the Christian people the riches of the prayers and rites. It is therefore important that authenticity be respected, that the participation of the faithful be promoted, and that the celebration should not take place without servers, readers and choir exercising their role.

It would be desirable if on occasion provision were made for several communities to assemble in one church, wherever their proximity one to another or small numbers mean that a full and festive celebration could not otherwise take place.

The celebration of the Easter Vigil for special groups is not to be encouraged, since above all in this Vigil the faithful should come together as one and should experience a sense of ecclesial community.

Faithful who are absent from their parish on vacation should be urged to participate in the liturgical celebration in the place where they happen to be.

In announcements concerning the Easter Vigil care should be taken not to present it as the concluding period of Holy Saturday; rather it should be stressed that the Easter Vigil is celebrated ‘during Easter night’, and that it is one single act of worship. Pastors should be advised that in giving catechesis to the people they should be taught to participate in the Vigil in its entirety.

For a better celebration of the Easter Vigil, it is necessary that Pastors themselves have an ever deeper knowledge of both texts and rites, so as to give a proper mystagogical catechesis to the people.


Mass is to be celebrated on Easter Day with great solemnity. It is appropriate that the penitential rite on this day take the form of a sprinkling with water blessed at the Vigil, during which the antiphon ‘Vidi aquam’, or some other song of baptismal character should be sung. The stoups at the entrance to the church should also be filled with the same water.

The tradition of celebrating baptismal Vespers on Easter Day with the singing of psalms during the procession to the font should be maintained where it is still in force, and as appropriate restored.

The paschal candle has its proper place either by the ambo or by the altar and should be lit at least in all the more solemn liturgical celebrations of the season until Pentecost Sunday, whether at Mass, or at Morning or Evening Prayer. After the Easter season the candle should be kept with honour in the baptistry, so that in the celebration of Baptism the candles of the baptised may be lit from it. In the celebration of Funerals the paschal candle should be placed near the coffin to indicate that the death of a Christian is his own passover. The paschal candle should not otherwise be lit nor placed in the sanctuary outside the Easter season.
– Given at Rome, at the Offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship, 16 January 1988


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The greatest mysteries of the Redemption are celebrated yearly by the Church, beginning with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and continuing until Vespers on Easter Sunday. This time is called ‘the triduum of the crucified, buried and risen’, it is also called the ‘Easter Triduum’ because during it is celebrated the Paschal mystery, that is the passing of the Lord from this world to his Father. The Church by the celebration of this mystery, through liturgical signs and sacramentals, is united to Christ, her Spouse, in intimate communion.

The Easter fast is sacred on the first two days of the Triduum, during which, according to ancient tradition, the Church fasts ‘because the Spouse has been taken away’. Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence; it is also recommended that Holy Saturday be so observed, so that, the Church, with uplifted and welcoming heart, be ready to celebrate the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection.

It is recommended that there be a communal celebration of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It is fitting that the bishop should celebrate the Office in the cathedral with, as far as possible, the participation of the clergy and people. This Office, formerly called ‘Tenebrae’, held a special place in the devotion of the faithful, as they meditated upon the passion, death and burial of the Lord, while awaiting the announcement of the Resurrection.

For the celebration of the Easter Triduum it is necessary that there should be a sufficient number of ministers and assistants who should be prepared so that they know what their role is in the celebration. Pastors must ensure that the meaning of each part of the celebration be explained to the faithful so that they may participate more fully and fruitfully.

The chants of the people and also of the ministers and the celebrating priest are of special importance in the celebration of Holy Week and particularly of the Easter Triduum, because they add to the solemnity of these days, and also because the texts are more effective when sung.

Episcopal Conferences are asked, unless provision has already been made, to provide music for those parts which it can be said should always be sung, namely:
(a) The General Intercessions of Good Friday; the deacon’s invitation and the acclamation of the people;
(b) chants for the showing and veneration of the cross;
(c) the acclamations during the procession with the paschal candle and the Easter proclamation, the responsorial ‘Alleluia’, the litany of the saints, and the acclamation after the blessing of water.

Since the purpose of sung texts is also to facilitate the participation of the faithful they should not be lightly omitted; such texts should be set to music. If the text for use in the Liturgy has not yet been set to music it is possible as a temporary measure to select other similar texts which are set to music. It is, however, fitting that there should be a collection of texts set to music for these celebrations, paying special attention to:
(a) chants for the procession and blessing of palms, and for the entrance into church;
(b) chants to accompany the procession with the Holy Oils;
(c) chants to accompany the procession with the gifts on Holy Thursday in the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and hymns to accompany the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose;
(d) the responsorial psalms at the Easter Vigil, and chants to accompany the sprinkling with blessed water.
Music should be provided for the Passion narrative, the Easter proclamation, and the blessing of baptismal water. Obviously the melodies should be of a simple nature in order to facilitate their use.
In larger churches where resources permit, a more ample use should be made of the Church’s musical heritage both ancient and modern, always ensuring that this does not impede the active participation of the faithful.

It is fitting that small religious communities, both clerical and lay, and other lay groups, should participate in the celebration of the Easter Triduum in neighbouring principal churches.

Similarly where the number of participants and ministers is so small that the celebrations of the Easter Triduum cannot be carried out with the requisite solemnity, such groups of the faithful should assemble in a larger church.

Also where there are small parishes with only one priest it is recommended that such parishes should assemble, as far as possible, in a principal church and there participate in the celebrations.

On account of the needs of the faithful, where a pastor has the responsibility for two or more parishes, in which the faithful assemble in large numbers and where the celebrations can be carried out with the requisite care and solemnity, the celebrations of the Easter Triduum may be repeated in accord with the given norms.

So that seminary students ‘may live fully Christ’s paschal mystery, and thus be able to teach those who will be committed to their care’, they should be given a thorough and comprehensive liturgical formation. It is important that during their formative years in the seminary they should experience fruitfully the solemn Easter celebrations, especially those over which the bishop presides.
– given at Rome, at the Offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship, 16 January 1988


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



During Holy Week the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his life on earth, beginning with his messianic entrance into Jerusalem.

The Lenten season lasts until the Thursday of this week. The Easter Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, is continued through Good Friday with the celebration of the Passion of the Lord and Holy Saturday, to reach its summit in the Easter Vigil. It concludes with Vespers of Easter Sunday. The days of Holy Week, from Monday to Thursday inclusive, have precedence over all other celebrations. It is not fitting that Baptisms or Confirmation be celebrated on these days.

Holy Week begins on ‘Passion (or Palm) Sunday’ which joins the foretelling of Christ’s regal triumph and the proclamation of the Passion. The connection between both aspects of the paschal mystery should be shown and explained in the celebration and catechesis of this day.

The Commemoration of the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem has, according to ancient custom, been celebrated with a solemn procession, in which the faithful in song and gesture imitate the Hebrew children who went to meet the Lord singing ‘Hosanna’.

The procession may take place only once, before the Mass which has the largest attendance, even if this should be in the evening either of Saturday or Sunday. The congregation should assemble in a secondary church or chapel in some other suitable place distinct from the church to which the procession will move.

In this procession the faithful carry palm or other branches. The priest and the ministers (also carrying branches) precede the people.

The palms or branches are blessed so that they can be carried in the procession. The palms should be taken home, where they will serve as a reminder of the victory of Christ which the community celebrated in the procession.

Pastors should make every effort to ensure that this procession in honour of Christ the King be so prepared and celebrated that it is of great spiritual significance in the life of the faithful.

In addition to the solemn procession described above, the Missal gives two other forms to commemorate the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. This is not simply for convenience, but to provide for those situations when it will not be possible to have a procession.

The second form is that of a solemn entrance, when the procession cannot take place outside the church.

The third form is a simple entrance such as is used at all Masses on this Sunday which do not have the solemn entrance.

Where the Mass cannot be celebrated, there should be a celebration of word of God on the theme of the Lord’s messianic entrance and passion, either on Saturday evening or on Sunday at a convenient time.

During the procession, the choir and people should sing the chants proposed in the Roman Missal, especially psalms 23 and 46, as well as other appropriate songs in honour of Christ the King.

The Passion narrative occupies a special place. It should be sung or read in the traditional way, that is by three persons; one takes the part of Christ, another is the narrator, while the third represents the people. The Passion is proclaimed by deacons or priests, or by lay readers; in the latter case, the part of Christ should be reserved to the priest.

The proclamation of the Passion should be without candles or incense; the greeting and the signs of the cross are omitted; only a deacon asks for the blessing, as he does before the Gospel.

For the spiritual good of the faithful the Passion should be proclaimed in its entirety, and the readings which precede it should not be omitted.

After the Passion has been proclaimed, a homily is to be given.


The Chrism Mass, which the bishop concelebrates with his presbyterium and at which the Holy Chrism is consecrated and the oils blessed, manifests the communion of the priests with their bishop in the same priesthood and ministry of Christ. To this Mass, the priest who concelebrate with the bishop should come from different parts of the diocese, thus showing in the consecration of the Chrism that they are his witnesses and cooperators, just as in their daily ministry they are his helpers and counsellors.
The faithful are also to be encouraged to participate in this Mass, and to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Traditionally the Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Thursday of Holy Week. If however, it should prove to be difficult for the clergy and people to gather with the bishop, this rite can be transferred to another day, but always close to Easter. The Chrism and the oil of catechumens is to be used in the celebration of the sacraments of initiation on Easter night.

There should be only one celebration of the Chrism Mass given its significance in the life of the diocese, and it should take place in the cathedral or, for pastoral reasons, in another church which has a special significance.

The Holy Oils can be brought to the individual parishes before the celebration of the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, or at some other suitable time. This can be a means of catechizing the faithful about the use and effects of the Holy Oils and Chrism in Christian life.


It is fitting that the Lenten season should be concluded with a penitential celebration, both for the individual Christian as well as for the whole Christian community, so that they may be helped to prepare to celebrate more fully the paschal mystery.
These celebrations should take place before the Easter Triduum, and should not immediately precede the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
– Given at Rome, at the Offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship, 16 January 1988


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,




The Catechism of the Catholic Church is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council. It is, if you like, a gift of the Council to the Church. For in the Catechism we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand year history…we travel together to discover the riches and treasures contained in the Church’s teaching on the celebration of the Christian Mystery in the liturgy and the sacraments.

This part of the Catechism outlines the Church’s understanding of her doctrinal teaching and her practice of the Liturgy and the Seven Sacraments. Each of the seven sacraments is an example of liturgy, as is also what is called the Liturgy of Hours or the Divine Office – which is a system of times of prayer during the day and every day, practised by priests, deacons and religious and, increasingly, by many lay people in the Church.

In presenting the Church’s understanding of the great beauty and profound nature of liturgy and sacraments, this part of the Catechism has two main sections. The first deals with the nature of the liturgy and sacraments generally; while the second section focuses on each of the sacraments in particular and ways of celebrating the Paschal Mystery of Christ as it touches the different stages and important moments of our Christian lives.

In the liturgy we are being brought into the very centre of our faith, the very heart of God’s plan to reveal himself and draw us back from our fallen condition to a new and intimate relationship with the living God. In and through the liturgy God the Father, who accomplished the plan of salvation by sending his Son and the Holy Spirit, gradually draws all of humanity to himself.

This was God’s original plan that we would know a relationship in which God poured out his grace and blessings upon us and we in response, expressed our thanks and praise in acts of worship and adoration. This is, in summary, what is happening in each and every liturgy and sacrament.

This is what will continue to happen until the end of time, when our union and communion with God and with one another in Christ will be complete.

An essential element of our relationship with God is the use of material things as signs and symbols. We are created beings made in God’s image and likeness. And yet, God is pure spirit – God is not in our image and likeness. In order to reveal himself God first created the material world and then uses it as a means of communication.

This is what is meant when the Catechism speaks of created things as God’s blessings. These same blessings become for us the means by which we love and worship God.

We see this very clearly in the Offertory Prayers in the Mass: ‘Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread/wine we offer you…’.

In the history of Israel God involved himself in the very events of their history. He is their God; they are his people. God established with them a covenant, so the Chosen People of God would become a sign of his plan to restore us to a right relationship with God. Both creation and the history of Israel were a preparation and, ultimately, a shadow of a new reality that was to take place, namely, the Incarnation of God’s own Son and the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

God’s own Son, Jesus of Nazareth, God made man, offers the Father the perfect act of worship. In the resurrection of Jesus, this perfect act of divine communication and of perfect human worship is made eternal.

As an eternal act, the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice can now enter into time and place and at any moment. This is what occurs in the Church’s liturgy, wherever and whenever it is celebrated. This was Christ’s will and purpose in establishing the Church and its sacraments. Christ willed also that certain created signs – bread, wine, water, oil and even marital love – should become signs of the eternal Paschal Mystery entering our time.

When we begin to have some insight into this awesome reality of the liturgy, our minds and hearts begin to be opened to the amazing thing that is taking place when we enter our churches on a Sunday and celebrate the Eucharist.

At the Baptism of Christ in the river Jordan, ‘the heavens were torn apart’ (Mark 1:10). This metaphorical phrase refers to a deep reality. The heavens were closed because of our rebellion and original sin. We were no longer capable of truly knowing God or of worshipping him in a way that truly united us with God. With the coming of Jesus, everything has changed, heaven was opened again! Jesus’ baptism was an anticipation of what was to occur when Jesus died on the Cross – the veil of the Temple was torn open (Matthew 27:51).

The Temple veil is another image of the closed heaven, of the barrier that separated humanity from God because of sin. In Jesus’ death this barrier between God and us is destroyed, true worship can take place and we can receive the full blessing of God (Ephesians 1:3).

This blessing is, first and foremost, the gift of the Holy Spirit who draws us all into the very life of the Trinitarian God through the Paschal Mystery made present for us, and fills us with God’s love.

Whenever we celebrate the Church’s liturgy this ‘open heaven’ becomes a reality for us. Our full participation occurs through our awareness of and interiorising in our hearts this most amazing celebration of the Christian mystery.
– This article was published in ‘Faith Today’ March 2013; to subscribe, please check their website (external link). Archbishop Bernard Longley’s booklet “Doorway to Faith”, A Journey of Prayer through the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the Year of Faith 2012/2013 can be ordered via the same website (external link) or ordered via:


Tags: , , , , , , , ,