Friday, April 2, 2010

Procession of Faith

What you are seeing is the beginning of a procession that started at Saint Michael’s Church on 9th street then went south on Jersey Avenue until it reached second, where they headed east to Erie and into Saint Mary’s. About ten years ago, as a cost savings measure, some Roman Catholic churches in Downtown J.C. were consolidated into the one Parish, the Parish of the Resurrection and this procession is a way to bring the community of the faithful together. It is a celebration of the Tridumm, considered the holiest days of the year by Christians—Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday introduces this solemn week, and at the conclusion of the Mass on Holy Thursday, there is no dismissal, no final blessing and no announcement that the Mass has ended. The Eucharist is removed from the Tabernacle into what is called the Altar of Repose. The next day, the Good Friday Liturgy has neither an introduction nor a conclusion—no actual “Mass” is celebrated—it is considered part of the same liturgy that was begun the previous evening. And the Easter Vigil itself features no formal opening, for it, too, is a continuation and ultimately a conclusion of the liturgy that began on Holy Thursday evening. It’s ironic since Catholics, unlike Protestants, believe in Transubstantiation that is, the Eucharist is not a symbol but the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, yet their ritual surrounding the celebration of the institution of the Eucharist are all about symbols. The Altar of Repose was set up in Saint Mary’s. The churches are dark, no mass being said, symbolizing the darkness of the world without Christ, which heightened the significance of processing in the night. A police escort was there, well of sorts at least. The procession was held on the sidewalks, the officers closed off the side streets to let them cross uninterrupted. Young people carried candles and a sensor with incense burning, the pastor held the monstrance, which holds the Holy Eucharist, and about three hundred people followed. I wasn’t able to get any better pictures. Hail Mary’s were recited. There was a touch of the medieval about it. The last few days, once again allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups of that abuse filled the media and even the Pope was involved. Yet here were folks in Jersey City celebrating Holy Week, expressing the simpleness of their faith. It may be too simple to say that Faith is something that you either have or you don’t, but I think it is obvious that there is a pretty big difference between Faith and Religion. Religions have to be organized, so to speak, so people can express faith, share it, act on it and further it with the study of theology. Religion, and the authorities that maintain religion, are human, are flawed. Faith though, with a simple procession like this, can seem very distant from the human authority regulating a religion. The Church is about Faith, which is about the relationship between the human heart and the divine. It is not about the misdeeds and criminal acts of some Religious Officials. After the procession, the priests, the people, knelt and prayed at St. Mary’s, in front of the Altar of Repose.. Only at the conclusion of the Easter Vigil are the dismissal announced and the final blessing bestowed. With that blessing and conclusion the Church has once again fulfilled its liturgical observance of its highest holy days.

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