Each year, bilingual services during Holy Week prepare Nativity Catholic Church’s congregation for the joyful celebration of Easter in a solemn expression of faith leading up to the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, when Nativity’s congregation are given palms as the priest enters from the back of the church to the alter.

On Tuesday of the week before Easter, Nativity hosted the Chrism Mass. During the Mass, Bishop Parkes and priests around the dioceses gather in the cathedral to bless the three oils that will be used during the sacraments over the next liturgical year and renew their vows they have made as priests.

On Holy Thursday, Nativity hosts the first of three Masses, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, that form the Easter Triduum. The Mass celebrated the Last Supper, and the presiding priests washed the feet of the members of the congregation, mimicking the symbolic cleansing of sins described in the Gospels. Following the washing of feet, the congregation was invited to pray and reflect in Nativity’s garden, as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane. The Mass ended without a conclusion and blessing as churchgoers were encouraged to return the following two days to continue the three-day-long service.

“I think Holy Thursday is one of the most inspiring, the washing of the feet in particular,” said Father Brad Reed, who is acting as director of the liturgy this year.

The next Mass on the Friday of the Passion of the Lord retold the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and allowed Nativity’s parish to reflect before the cross. Father Reed described the moving moment as the congregation came up to the cross bearing their own physical and emotional burdens.

Holy Week concluded on the Saturday before Easter with the 8 p.m. Easter Vigil in the Holy Night. The longer service began outside around a campfire built by Nativity’s Boy Scout troop. The procession brought the congregation into the dark church, illuminated by candles held by the congregation that were lit in the fire. There were seven passages read from the Old Testament that foreshadowed the Resurrection, and then the lights were turned on, symbolizing the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead.

“This week kind of commemorates that pattern of our life and that mystery of the Lord, in which we are all invited to participate,” said Father Reed.

For more information on Nativity’s Masses, visit nativitycatholicchurch.org.

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Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher is a writer for the Osprey Observer. She started as an intern in the summer of 2020 and has continued to write for the Osprey Observer since completing her internship. Lily is majoring in mass communications at the University of South Florida and is a staff writer for the university’s paper, The Oracle. She enjoys writing about local nonprofit organizations and community role models who have made an impact on her hometown.