St. Bernard Abbey, Sacred Heart Church celebrating Holy Week

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St. Bernard Prep faculty and students gather for the Stations of the Cross. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Christians around the world are celebrating Holy Week, leading up to Easter Sunday. The solemnity of the time is visible in the Church of St. Bernard Abbey and Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Cullman. Crucifixes and images of saints are covered with violet cloth as Christians “fast” from the beauty and comfort of sacred images. Even the Abbey’s huge 10-foot Great Cross is shrouded, its bright colors invisible throughout Lent until Easter. 

Said Abbot Marcus Voss, O.S.B., leader of the monastery of about 20 Benedictine monks, “Holy Week begins with Passion (Palm) Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem where, during the coming week, he would suffer, die and rise.”  

A letter from St. Bernard Abbey, shared by the abbey’s Fr. Joel Martin, O.S.B. read, in part:

The Abbot explained that Holy Week continues through to the Easter Triduum, the Great Three Days beginning Holy Thursday Evening (March 28) and lasting through Easter Sunday Evening (March 31). On Holy Thursday evening the institution of the Massat, the event called The Lord’s Supper, is celebrated, and the Abbot of the monastery washes the feet of twelve men in commemoration of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet. Holy Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday” (from the Latin word “mandatum” or “command”), from Jesus’ command made on this day that his followers are to love as He loves – demonstrated in the very act of washing feet. On Good Friday is remembered Jesus’ perfect act of love: His suffering and death. In that connection the cross is honored with great solemnity. On Holy Saturday all keep watch with Jesus as He lies in the tomb until the darkness of Saturday evening.  It is then that light pierces the darkness in the Easter Vigil.  

The Easter Vigil is the great celebration of Christ’s resurrection and victory over death.  The service begins in the dark (8 p.m. on Saturday night) when the “New Fire” is lit outside the Abbey Church.  From that fire the Paschal (Easter) Candle, which symbolizes Christ, is lit and taken into the church, where the candles of all worshippers receive the flame from the “Light of Christ” (Paschal Candle), destroying darkness and flooding the church with light.  Finally comes Easter Sunday morning and Easter Mass at 10:30 a.m.

Especially during these days the Catholic monks of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman welcome guests to their worship, ancient rites in praise of God who suffered for the world.  The principal services at the Benedictine Abbey will be:

March 28 (Thursday) Holy Thursday – ​Mass of the Lord’s Supper at ​4 p.m.

March 29 (Friday) Good Friday – ​Passion of Christ 3 p.m., ​Tenebrae ​7:30 p.m.

March 30 (Sat.) – Easter Vigil, The great Easter Celebration ​8 p.m.

March 31 (Sun.) ​Easter Sunday – ​Mann ​10:30 a.m., Vespers ​5:30 p.m.

“For almost 2,000 years Christians have worshiped God in special services during these holiest of days, and we are privileged to do the same,” said Abbot Marcus, “and we welcome all to join us.”

Why the veils?

 If you visit St. Bernard Abbey or Sacred Heart of Jesus Church before the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening, you will see the crucifixes and icons covered in purple veils. The abbey’s letter explained:

In the Church’s tradition the veiling of crosses has several meanings: It is a “fasting” from sacred depictions which represent the Easter glory of salvation.  Just as the Lenten fast concludes with the Easter feast, so too, fasting from the cross culminates in honoring the cross on which the sacrifice of Calvary was offered for the sins of the world on that first Good Friday. An important part of the Good Friday Liturgy is that honoring of the Cross, which includes its unveiling. Once the Cross has been unveiled, it is logical that all crosses would be unveiled so that they too might be honored by the faithful and remind all of the glory of the Holy Cross of Christ. 

Likewise, a fasting from the wonderful images of the mysteries of faith and the saints in glory, ends at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night when all celebrate the victorious Christ, risen from the tomb.

Some writers explain that the veiling is to remind all of Jesus’ humiliation and to imprint the image of the crucified Christ more deeply on minds and hearts.  The veiling of crosses and images, making them “present” but “absent,” draws attention to their importance and beauty – as wonderful objects that remind one of the gift of salvation and the communion of saints.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church liturgical schedule for Holy Week and the Easter Triduum

Tuesday, March 26

  • 6:30 a.m.: Mass
  • Noon: Mass
  • 12:45-1:45 p.m.: Confessions
  • 5:30 p.m.: Apologetics Class
  • 6:15 p.m.: Novena of the Miraculous Medal
  • 7:15-8:45 p.m.: Confessions – Fr. Patrick Egan and Fr. John O’Donnell will be available. If no confessions are heard for 30 minutes, Fr. Patrick and Fr. John will return to the Rectory; however, you can still go to confession, just ring the doorbell on the west side of the Rectory, the side that has the handicap ramp, and one of them will hear your confession in the Rectory.

Wednesday, March 27

  • 6:30 a.m.: Mass
  • Noon-1 p.m.: Confessions
  • 5:30 p.m.: Mass
  • 6:15-7:15 p.m.: Confessions
  • 7:30-8:30 p.m.: Mass in Spanish

Holy Thursday, March 28

  • 9 a.m.: Liturgical Rehearsal – Priests, Deacons, and Altar Servers
  • Noon-1 p.m.: Confessions
  • 7 p.m.: Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is the only Mass that can be celebrated on Holy Thursday. This Mass will conclude with a Eucharistic Procession around the Church ending with the placement of the Blessed Sacrament on the St. Joseph Altar
  • Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament: From the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper until midnight.
  • 8:30-9:30 p.m.: Confessions
  • 11:45 p.m.: Compline (Night prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours)
  • Midnight: Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament signaling Christ descent into hell and the realm of the dead.

Good Friday, March 29

  • 9 a.m.: Liturgical Rehearsal – Priests, Deacons, and Altar Servers
  • 2:15 p.m.: Stations of the Cross and the Divine Mercy Chaplet
  • 3 p.m.: Celebration of the Passion of the Lord
  • 7-8 p.m.: Confessions

Holy Saturday, March 30

  •  9 a.m.: Liturgical Rehearsal for Easter Vigil – Priest, Deacons, Altar Servers and OCIA Elect
  • 8 p.m.: Easter Vigil – Reception of the OCIA (Order of Christian Initiation of Adults) Catechumens into the Church, including Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion

Easter Sunday, March 31

  • 9 a.m.: Mass
  • 11:30 a.m.: Mass

Confessions may be scheduled with Fr. Patrick any time during regular office hours, Monday, March 25, through Wednesday, March 27. Confessions will not be heard on Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday. Adoration will not be held from midnight of Holy Thursday until after the 6:30 a.m. Mass on Monday, April 1, 2024.

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