We have written about a few ways to live through Lent and prepare oneself for Easter. Finally, the time has come to experience the most important Christian holiday itself.
The Easter Triduum starts on Maundy Thursday. It is a day remembering a series of key events from the Gospel: the Last Supper, which was also the first Eucharist, establishing the sacrament of priesthood by Christ, as well as washing of the feet of the Apostles, and captivating Jesus. There is a special Chrism Mass in every cathedral when the holy oils are blessed and the chrism is consecrated. Maundy (or Holy) Thursday is also a personal holiday for every priest as priesthood is especially celebrated on that day. In the evening, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is held. After Gloria (sung first time after the Lenten period), the bells and organ are silenced until Saturday evening. The Blessed Sacrament is moved to the chapel of adoration and the liturgy remains unfinished – it will be continued on Friday.
Good Friday is a day of fasting and prayer, as it remembers the Death of Christ. Since early morning, there is an opportunity to take part in adoration and the Way of the Cross service. It is the only day during the year when there is no Mass held in the Catholic Church. However, late in the afternoon people gather for the Lord’s Passion liturgy. One can notice that the altar is stripped of the cross, flowers, candlesticks and cloth. All this symbolism points to the idea that as Jesus dies, the world is left without light and the great gift of Eucharist. Vigil by the Grave continues into the night.
Holy Saturday is when even the most lukewarm Catholics wake up, pack their baskets with eggs, sausage, bread, lamb, salt, ham, and horseradish, which constitute “święconka” – food blessed by the priest on Saturday, to be eaten on Sunday morning. Blessing of święconka is the most attended service in the Polish Church. Even people who never go to church visit the place at least this one time in the year. As the sun sets, the culmination of the whole Triduum comes about. Easter Vigil Mass starts with the ceremony of darkness and light, the paschal candle is lit, followed by a procession into the church. Vigil Mass can be considered the richest Mass in the Church, in terms of stimulating the senses: there is light and darkness, there is choir singing of psalms, there are readings spanning from the creation of world to the resurrection, there is incense. The Catholic imagery and symbolism are fleshed out to their fullest. After the liturgy, Christ is risen. “Alleluia” comes back to the songs and people greet each other with “Christ is risen, alleluia” to which one should respond “Indeed He is risen, alleluia”.
Easter Sunday starts with the Resurrection Mass with procession around the church. Then comes the Easter breakfast. Much like the Christmas Eve dinner, Easter breakfast is a Polish institution in itself. The table can hardly fit all the food on it. Eating continues way into early afternoon and moves smoothly into lunch. There is a lot of ham, vegetable salad, eggs, mayonnaise, chocolate and special Easter cakes. In the afternoon, it is best to try and go for a walk, so that one does not end up in the hospital due to overeating. Later, gluttony may continue. Then comes Easter Monday, still a bank holiday in Poland, but that is a story for another article…