The Holy Week this year started on Sunday 20th March, 2016 (Palm Sunday) and ended on Sunday 27th March, 2016 (Easter Sunday). Bigard as usual joined the universal church in this most sacred and solemn celebration.
Marking the beginning of the Holy Week, Sunday, the 20th day of March, 2016 being the 6th Sunday since the start of the Lenten season, was the Palm Sunday. The ceremony of the Palm Sunday is divided into three parts: The blessing of the palm, the procession and the Holy Mass. The first part which is the blessing of the palm, took place outside the church, precisely in front of the Seminary Auditorium.
The chief celebrant, Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi, in a brief reflection reminded the faithful present: “The ceremony today marks the beginning of the holiest week in every year in the life of the church”. He further explained that the Church places great importance to the message and events of this Solemn and Holy Week, as it marks the establishment and essence of the Church. The second part was a solemn procession which led all to the Bigard Main Chapel.
The third part of the day’s celebration was the Holy Mass, which continued with the liturgy of the Word. In his homily, the Principal Celebrant, Rev Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi, reminded all that the Holy Week launched with the Palm Sunday should be a period of prayer, sober reflection, good works and a great opportunity to draw closer to God. Explaining how important this week is to the Church, he proclaimed that Christianity gained its cause and meaning within the Holy Week.
The homilist noted, in his words: “Everything leads to the Cross, and nothing is ever right when distanced from the cross of Christ, for it was from the cross that salvation of man came. Therefore, Christians should be prepared to embrace the cross just like St. Paul who saw his sufferings as a way of sharing in the glory of Christ.” Going further, he noted that the difficulties we encounter in life as Christians happen so that the glory of God may be manifested.
After the homily, the rest of the rituals of the Holy Mass went on normal.
Holy Thursday in other words known as Maundy Thursday is the first day of the Paschal Triduum. The lauds were combined with the solemn catafalque candle light service and office of the readings. And this was the case for the other remaining two days of Triduum. After the lauds, the entire Bigard Family went to the Holy Ghost Cathedral Enugu for Chrism Mass, presided over by Most. Rev. CalistusOnaga, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese.
The evening liturgy of Holy Thursday which is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, was presided over by the chief shepherd of Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu, the Rector, Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa. In his homily, he explained the importance of one’s final words or writings, in line with the event of the Last Supper of Christ with his apostles.
Going further he said; “The institution of the Holy Eucharist is a product of Christ’s words and actions during the last supper” He went on to ask; “what do we teach our children, younger ones or those put under our care?”He admonished all to follow the steps of Christ, who taught love, service and humility to his apostles, by washing their feet.
By this demonstration he said, Jesus teaches us all to instill into those entrusted to our care, the virtue of Love which cannot fail. He concluded by exposing the ultimate necessity of receiving the Holy Communion worthily, and obeying the new commandment of love which Christ gave to us all through his apostles; “A new commandment I give you, love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34).”
After the homily came the washing of the feet of twelve persons from the congregation, in demostration of Christ’s humility and service which should be imbibed by all. The Blessed Sacrament was taken to the Altar of Repose after the reception of the Holy Communion, and this was followed by the vigil in which the people of God waited in watchful prayer with the Lord ‘at least for an hour’ in turns, till mid-night.
The liturgical ceremony of Good Friday was made up of two major parts.
1. Part I. The Stations of the Cross.
2. Part II was divided into three parts:
a. The Liturgy of the word (which included the Intercessory prayers for the church and the entire world, Christians and non-Christians)
b. The Veneration of the Cross
c. Communion Service
The Stations of the Cross which was dramatized started at 3:00 PM. This was followed by Lenten fast collection.
The second part of the solemn ceremony of Good Friday started with a service presided over by Rev. Fr. Dr. Miletus Ossai, as Mass is not celebrated on a Good Friday. In his homily, Fr. Ossai reflected on the symbolism of the birth and death of Christ, which in them, the church recognizes and identifies with the voluntary acceptance of Jesus Christ to be born and to die for the salvation of man. In his words; “his acceptance to be born to us, and also to die for us is simply a manifestation of his Ultimate Sacrifice and Love for mankind.”
The Homily was presented in two phases, which are Sin and Love.
In the first phase which he termed “Sin”, the homilist admonished that before one speaks maliciously of other people’s sins and weaknesses, one should bear in mind that one is not free from sin either. He also observed that truthfulness in conscience to admit that one is a sinner, and making effort to free oneself from the shackles of sin, bring one face to face with the mercy of God. He further warned that true Christians should free themselves from negative and phariseetic attitude to sin.
In the Second Phase which he termed “Love”, Fr. Miletus explained that the identity of a true Christian is love. He opted still that since the route to man’s salvation is the Cross of Christ, and acknowledging that Christ mounted the wood of the cross out of Ultimate love, then he maintained that the attitude of Christians to the cross, should be one borne out of love.
He admonished that Christian love should be one characterized by charity, benevolence and good works, rather than utility, pleasure and exploitation; Christian love should be expressed through suffering for the beloved.
The veneration of the cross followed the homily, then the reception of Holy Communion. The service was ended without the church’s traditional dismissal blessing, and all came sorrowfully away, as Christ still laid buried in the tomb.
The solemn liturgy of this Holy night was usually categorized into four ritually related and complementary parts: The Service of light, baptism and renewal of baptismal vows and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The whole surroundings of Bigard Main Chapel were shrouded in darkness as all lights were put off during the service of light.
The ceremony which began outside the chapel, continued in the Chapel when all the faithful, led by the ministers entered in a procession into the Chapel, with only the paschal candle lighted, as a solemn confession of the Risen Christ as the light of the world. The Exulted was then solemnly and sonorously rendered by Rev. Gabriel Ezeolughu.
In his homily, the principal celebrant, Rev. Fr. Dr. Francis Igboanugo explained the cause of the night’s celebration as the Lord’s victory and triumph over death, which marks the essence of Christian faith and belief in the life to come.
Fr. Igboanugo opted that Christ’s resurrection is an assurance of our own resurrection. He went further to explain thus; “For he who believes inChrist’s resurrection, no proofsare necessary, but for he who does not believe in Christ’s resurrection, no proofsare possible to convince him on the truth of this mystery.” The homilist explained resurrection in four traits: Resurrection as rising from the dead, resurrection as restoration of the people of God from exiles, resurrection as liberation from death, and resurrection as renewal of life.
After the homily, one candidate for adult Baptism was baptized. This was followed by the renewal of baptismal promises by the rest of the faithful, after which, the Mass continued normally till the end.
Bigard family and friends on Sunday 27th April, 2016, joined the universal church, as they commemorate the resurrection of Christ. The Holy Mass was presided over by the Rector, Very Rev Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa
In his homily Fr. Albert reflected: “The celebration of today is a solemnity to us all, because we are called to be children of God, as Christ has broken the chains of Death, and has brought redemption to mankind” Going further, he explained that the mysteries of Christ’s resurrection can never be exhausted, since man can only perceive a bit of the reality of Christ’s coming, passion, death and resurrection.
Speaking more on Christ’s resurrection, the homilist equated what Christ exhibited in the mysteries of his death and resurrection with Christ’s words in John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grains.”
Fr. Albert thus expounded still on the mystery of Christ’s resurrection; “the resurrection of Christ wrought a new dawn, and gives us all today, the opportunity to experience a new beginning.” He continued; “when we are ready to initiate a new beginning in Christ, only then do we dispose ourselves to share in the glory of Christ’s Resurrection.
Thus he called on all, to proclaim the Christ whose Messianic mission is characterized by suffering, torture, crucifixion, death and resurrection. After the homily, the rest of the rituals of the Holy Mass went on normal, as the Mass was also colored with the candidates who received their first Holy Communion.
Thus, with the end of the mass, the Bigard family wished all a Happy Easter Celebration!