April 9, 2007

Cornell Celebrates End of Holy Week

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Yesterday’s celebration of Easter marked the end of the most sacred week of the year for the Roman Catholic Church. Beginning with Palm Sunday and concluding with Easter, Holy Week is the commemoration of the believed death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Here at Cornell, the Cornell Catholic community organized a week of reflection and prayer for all the faithful. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are the three holiest days on the Catholic calendar, more sacred even then the more popularized Christmas holiday. Each day, services were held on campus for Cornell and the greater Ithaca community to come together for worship.
Student volunteers who act as Eucharistic ministers, hospitality ministers and sacristans for the campus’ Catholic community organized these services. Leah Tourtellotte ’08, a sacristan, said that students “arrived at 9:15 for the 11 o’clock mass to help Father Dan and Sister Donna set up for the service.”
They made sure that the alter was prepared and that the masses ran smoothly.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings the Cornell Catholic community congregated in Annabel Taylor Hall and Sage Chapel to celebrate the day’s mass. Then on Sunday almost 1,000 Cornell Catholics came to Bailey Hall for Easter Mass.
Eliese Friedel ’09 said, “The mass was crowded, even for Bailey, which can seat 1,300 people. This was a good representation of the strong Catholic population on campus.”
Each day of Holy Week represents a different aspect of the Passion of Christ, which is the story of Jesus’ capture, suffering and death. The liturgy on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, memorializes Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, where he traveled to fulfill the prophesy of his death and resurrection. It is termed Palm Sunday because his arrival in Jerusalem was met with cheers and waving of palm branches, days before he was put to death. At this mass, worshippers recite and reflect on the Passion.
Holy Thursday remembers the Last Supper of Christ. Some of the rituals of this mass include the washing of the feet, which symbolizes Jesus’ own practice of washing the feet of his followers, the Twelve Apostles, and the blessing of the oils that churches use for sacraments throughout the year. Finally, on the Thursday before Easter, the hosts are put on repose until the Eucharist is celebrated again on Easter Sunday. This day is followed by Good Friday, the solemn memorial of Jesus’ death on the cross.
The last two days of the week are in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, the defining belief of the Christian faith. Saturday night is the Easter Vigil: it is the Catholics’ preparation for the resurrection of Jesus. The vigil is a ceremony celebrated with candles to symbolize the metaphorical arrival of the light of the world. Catholics then celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, the greatest feast of the year in the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Catechism, the central teaching of the church, says, “Christ’s Resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus himself during his earthly life. The truth of Jesus’ divinity is confirmed by his Resurrection.” For devout Catholics, Easter is not about a bunny or a search for painted eggs, but is the definitive celebration and spiritual affirmation of the foundation of their beliefs.