The three holiest days of the Catholic Church’s liturgical year are encapsulated in the Easter Triduum, which begins with the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday and ends with Vespers on Easter Sunday. “Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states. At the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Bishop Oscar A. Solis celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, and the noon Mass on Easter Sunday.
On Holy Thursday, Bishop Oscar A. Solis washed the feet of 12 parishioners, re-enacting the actions of Jesus as He instituted the priesthood. In his homily, the bishop reminded the congregation that at the Last Supper, Jesus offered His life for humankind, and taught His disciples an important lesson: that true love is defined in concrete actions. Although God Incarnate, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, doing the menial task of a servant. “His actions spoke so clearly of what true love is – providing us a model for all Christians to live and to follow. He taught us that the greatest among us is the one who serves,” Bishop Solis said. Even knowing that His disciples would deny and abandon Him, Jesus “served and gave his life not only for the good but for those undeserving of this love. It is a beautiful teaching – that Christian love doesn’t choose, that you serve and love everyone, even those people who are difficult to love.”
Jesus established the Sacrament of Holy Communion “as the living sign of His sacrificial offering and of His continuing presence with us,” the bishop said, adding that without priests there would be no Eucharist, so he asked for prayers for vocations. He also said he has heard complaints that people can’t understand the foreign priests in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, and his response is that the priests “speak one language, the language of love, and the language of God’s service to the Church. They left their home and their country to give service to us. Instead of complaining about their accent, pray for them, love them, and support them, because we need the Eucharist, and we need priests.”
At the conclusion of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Cathedral of the Madeleine was darkened, and the faithful were invited to participate in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight, responding to Christ’s request to Peter, John and James to stay awake with Him during His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane before Judas’ betrayal, which led to his arrest by the Roman soldiers, His trial and his Crucifixion.
Speaking to the congregation on Good Friday, Bishop Solis said, “The Son of God, Jesus Christ humbled Himself, suffered tremendous agony on the cross, and gave up His life to save us and redeem us. The story sounds bad, and so gruesome, and yet this Friday is called ‘good’ because Christ’s mission as the savior of the world is accomplished; our redemption is won. Christ … sacrificed His life for our sins so that we might have eternal life. He bore the heavy weight of the cross and died for us, dying for only one reason – because of His pure, unconditional and unselfish love, and because of this, the Lord has saved you and me. Heaven is now open even for sinners.” In the eyes of the world the cross of Jesus is a symbol of scandal, an instrument of death and suffering, he said, but for Christian believers, it is a symbol of God’s glory, a manifestation of heroic and unselfish sacrifice, an instrument of forgiveness and redemption. Jesus Christ said, “‘if anyone wants to follow me, he must take up his cross and walk after me.’ So we must learn to love like Christ, to embrace His cross, and to learn love others as He loves us, even when it hurts,” Bishop Solis said.
During his homily at the Easter Vigil, Bishop Solis said the mood was one of joy and celebration “because Christ, our Lord, is risen from the dead. He is risen in order to dispel the darkness of sin and to give us newness of life.” The Easter candle, which he is shown incensing during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is symbolic of the radiance of the risen Christ and the light that Jesus brought, dispelling the darkness of sin. The Easter message is that “Christ is not dead, He is risen, so we gain for us a new life. This is a joyful moment for the world to receive the light of Christ and His gift of new life. So we must rejoice with the heavenly powers and together exult at His rising. ... Tonight, let us pray for God’s grace to understand God’s love and the amazing gift of new life He has given us. Thank God for this heavenly blessing; bring joy and hope to our world. Put back Christ in our celebration and our lives. Be Easter people and witness Christ in your life – that He is alive. Easter people, believers in Jesus, are people of joy and hope. They know how to celebrate. And so my dear friends, let us join together and party with Christ, knowing that He is alive. Alleluia! Alleluia!”