This evening Lent ends and we begin the most sacred celebration in our calendar, the Sacred Paschal Triduum. Paschal is the adjective for Easter, from the Latin Pascha. Triduum refers to the fact that it is a single celebration that takes place over three days. The priest begins tonight, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" and ends on Saturday evening concludes the celebration with "Go forth in peace, Alleluia, Alleluia."
Tonight's celebration is called the Mass of the Lord's Supper. We do not refer to it as the Last Supper as if it marks the end of something. For us it marks a beginning, the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in which even to this day two millennia later we continue to share the body and blood of Christ.
Tonight's liturgy also focuses us on service, and in a special way the service of the poor. After the gospel, the priest, the leader, washes the feet of those selected. In some of our parishes it has erroneously been turned into a communal friends and family exercise, and worse yet, in some places washing of hands, like Pontius Pilate, has been substituted for the rich symbolism of leader being the servant. Pope Francis has chosen not to celebrate this Mass in the Basilica of St. John Lateran but at Istituto Penale Maschile E Femminile Per Minorenni Casal Del Marmo (a mixed gender penal facility for minors) where he will wash the feet of boy and girl inmates. A Pope in a prison washing inmate feet. What more need be said about how it should be done.
Tonight's liturgy also says, "At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist[after the intercessions], there may be a procession of the faithful in which gifts for the poor may be presented with the bread and wine."
Tonight's collection is not for the parish general fund. Tonight we give to the poor. In our parish tonight is the night to bring back Operation Rice Bowl boxes, and all monies collected will go toward that program which helps the poor around the world.
We will end the night with prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Remember that tonight a plenary indulgence is given to all those who piously recite or sing the Tantum Ergo after the procession of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass. This must of course be accompanied by the usual conditions, recent confession, communion, and prayer for the Holy Father. At St. Patrick's I will be available to hear confessions and the Church will remain open after mass for prayer.