By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published April 28, 2011
The joyful celebration of Holy Week is made possible in our parishes because of the great and generous kindness of so many parishioners, who pitch in to help their community of faith achieve all of the projects and plans needed to have beautiful ceremonies that mark that most important time of the Christian year. Thanks to the countless numbers of people who sang, read, cleaned, decorated, served, assisted around the altar and then attended our Holy Week celebrations throughout North Georgia!
Holy Week traditionally finds the Archbishop as a frequent participant in the services at Christ the King Cathedral. The Cathedral, as always, outdid itself in providing truly inspiring and beautiful celebrations. The church was filled to overflowing with parishioners, visitors and guests whose presence enriched each ceremony. I could not help but notice that there was a friendly and family-like atmosphere at the Cathedral for each of these ceremonies. People felt that the Cathedral church was a true home for them during this special week.
Beginning with the Palm Sunday morning traditional donkey procession and the student enactment of St. Matthew’s Passion that focused upon the participation of our youngsters, I watched and listened in rapt pleasure as the young voices filled the church with their simple yet profound faith, all to the delight of their parents and grandparents. Some young fathers sat on the floor of the Cathedral trying to contain their restless toddlers (the toddlers won) and focus their attention on the events in the sanctuary. Families belong in church together and just watching young parents introduce their children to the Church’s Holy Week traditions is a joy that fills the heart of this Archbishop.
Our Chrism Mass was well attended by priests from throughout the Archdiocese as well as a few guest priests who participated in a day of reflection in anticipation of this annual celebration of the Priestly Office and the blessing of the holy oils. Our priests enjoy each other’s company and seemed to be strengthened by renewing the promises of service and witness that we all first made on the day of our ordination.
Being a priest has never been an easy calling and in many respects it has only grown more challenging in an environment that questions the bedrock values that belong to priesthood: fidelity, commitment and integrity of life. The tribulations come from all directions—and unfortunately even from within the priesthood itself.
Yet each year, this group of men stands together and proclaims before the Church their desire and willingness to be faithful servant ministers to this community, and a loving assembly of faithful applauds them and thanks them for their dedication and promises.
The Eucharist itself then became the focal point of Thursday’s ceremony as we praised God for the gift of this inestimable treasure. The Eucharist leads all who receive it to service and brings with it the obligation of humble love for our brothers and sisters.
As in past years, a group of youngsters who had received their First Holy Communion during the past year were highlighted during the Holy Thursday ceremony. I washed their feet, and they led the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to its place of repose at the conclusion of Mass. As we were waiting to enter the Cathedral, one of the young men whose feet I was about to wash assured me that his mom had made him wash his feet the night before. I was comforted by that announcement—after I stopped chuckling!
Good Friday’s Solemn Liturgy is sober in its starkness—a bare altar, a simple cross and subdued music all befit the Church’s mood as we call to mind the fact that Christ’s death is the price of our salvation. Later that evening we prayed the Stations of the Cross that had been composed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for Easter 2005, just before he was elected as our pope.
The highlight of the week was, of course, the Easter Vigil, which began outside of the Cathedral with the blessing of the Easter fire and the new Paschal candles and included a good number of our Spanish-speaking parishioners and all 56 of the people who were received into the Church that evening at this parish.
The dramatic setting of darkness and light reminded all of us that even in the shadows of life that we all experience, the Light of Christ destroys fear, hatred and death. The Cathedral ceremonies did not disappoint at any moment of this graced week. Thanks to all who shared in them and to all those who worked so hard to make them prayerful and inspiring!
A Blessed Easter to all of you, dear brothers and sisters in the Risen Lord.