The Palm Sunday of this year was on 9th April, 2017. The ceremony normally has three parts: The blessing of the palm, the procession and the Holy Mass. The blessing of the palm which normally is done outside the church took place in the Bigard Main Chapel as a result of unfavorable weather. The chief celebrant, Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi, the HOD Theology Faculty, in a brief reflection reminded all of the importance of the day’s celebration in the life of the Church. Hence, he revealed that Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week and reminds the faithful of the total submission of Christ to the Father’s will, by accepting to go into Jerusalem for the ultimate sacrifice of salvaging man from eternal damnation, through his death and resurrection. He enjoined on all to be disposed for the activities of the holy week, in order to better partake in the glories of Christ’s resurrection.
The Mass continued with the liturgy of the Word. Very Rev Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi, the chief celebrant, in his homily narrated how perseverance, thankfulness, obedience and total submission have justified man in his dealings with the divine, he said thus;
“We must always be aware that without the grace and assistance of God, we cannot be successful in any project we embark upon. Therefore, there is every need to go back always to the Lord in thankfulness and in all situations, just like the cured leper did.
The Story of the call of Abraham, and how he responded promptly without questioning God, leaves much to ponder on for us Christians in our journey of faith. For it was faith that guided Abraham, and made him believe all that God instructed him to do.
Again, one may be right to ask why God allowed the people of Israel to be held in captivity for 430years in Egypt, despite his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that their descendants would flourish like palm tree and shall triumph over their enemies. More often than not, we refuse to recall the goodness of God on us, and tend to focus more on the dark side of our lives. Everything happens that the name of God may always be glorified.
There is every need for us to renew and reactivate our faith and trust in God, and we would see the marvels and wonders he would do in our lives. We must be guided not to assume the place of God, rather, we should remain human, humble, submissive, and wait on God to do his works.”
After the spiritually challenging homily, the rest of the rituals of the Holy Mass went on normal. There were vote of thanks and announcements before the final dismissal.
The Holy Thursday of this year was came on 13th April, 2017. The Holy Thursday also known as Maundy Thursday is the first day of the Paschal Triduum. The lauds were combined with the solemn 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 Bigard family attended the Chrism Mass at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Enugu by 10:00 am, where some of the Bigard Formators renewed their priestly vows.
The evening liturgy of Holy Thursday, which started at 5:00 PM, usually commemorated the Last Supper of Jesus and the institution of the Eucharist, together with the washing of the feet, which symbolically represents the ‘Christ as the Ultimate Servant’; “I came to serve and not to be served” (Mt. 20: 28). During the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, precisely during the Gloria, the bells were rung and after that they were to remain silent, and clappers used in their stead, until the Easter vigil, when they shall be heard again to herald the triumph of Christ over death in the resurrection.
The Rector, Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa as the Pater Familias, presided over the Mass. In his homily, he presented the three gifts of Christ to mankind, which are commemorated on the Holy Thursday, namely; Institution of the Eucharist, The Priesthood, and the new commandment of God.
Explaining the institution of the Eucharist as a divine gift of Christ to humanity, the homilist said, “In Matt 26:26, Christ promised that whoever eats his body and drinks his blood will have eternal life. Therefore, the Eucharist is a mystical food given for our spiritual enrichment.”
Projecting the Priesthood as a gift from Christ, the homilist said, “Jesus Christ considered how weak we are, he gave us the gift of the priesthood as a means of reaching him. He gave us the priests who can mediate between mankind and him (Christ). Through our priests, our weaknesses can be conquered, and strength restored.”
Talking of the New Commandment of God as a gift from Christ, Fr. Ikpenwa said, “Today again, Jesus gave us the new commandment to love one another as he loves us. This love is not the worldly pattern of love we mostly practice today, which can be referred to as emotional fantasy; love established out of emotional feelings from the body – concupiscence, rather Christ established a selfless love by washing the feet of his Apostles.”
He concluded by admonishing all to emulate Christ and always be keen to show Love, especially to those who are in tribulations, “Christ has given us an example, let us work with him. Let us follow him more devotedly because he has set us free from condemnation due for our sins. May we also help our brothers and sisters suffering in anyway, especially those who need spiritual, Social and financially help, so that the peace and love of Christ may always abide with us.”
In a gesture of humility and service and in imitation of Christ, the Rector tied a towel round his waist and washed the feet of twelve persons. Another remarkable part of the liturgy of the day, after the liturgy of the Eucharist, was the transfer of the Holy Communion to the Altar of Repose, conspicuously situated in the middle of the chapel. 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 Good Friday was celebrated on 14th April, 2017. This is a day in the year when the high point in the liturgy of the church is not the Eucharist, but the Cross. In other words, the liturgy is not centered on the sacrament but on the event”. Accordingly, the Holy Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday following the tradition of the church.
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 highly solemn and somber ceremony of Good Friday, started with a grave silent and solemn procession, from the sacristy through the main entrance of the main chapel to the sanctuary. On arrival at the sanctuary, the Chief celebrant, Rev. Fr. Damian Udechukwu and the two Deacons flanking him, arrived solemnly and prostrated before the altar to reflect on the exceedingly great love of Christ. This prostration theologically is a sign of man’s desperate and desolate condition before being redeemed. It is also a powerful sign of recollection of the mystery commemorated on this day. At the beginning of the services, there were no lights burning, for Christ the light of the world has died. The cross on the altar was still covered.
The service proper began with a profound silence followed by an opening prayer which ushered in the liturgy of the Word. Worthy of note was the wonderful rendering of the passion in Igbo, by Rev. Egbo Stephen, Rev. Ozioko Oliver and Mr. Ezurike Emmanuel. It was really ad rem to the mood of the ceremony. Fr. Udechukwu, the chief celebrant in the course of the homily explained that the passion narrative is apologetic in nature, in that it was written to prove to the early Christian the divine nature of Christ, and also to defend the question of why Jesus must die in such a manner of humiliation, torture and crucifixion.
The Biblical exegete explained that the realization of the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the life of Christ came as a result of deep reflection on the Old Testament by the disciples of Jesus, juxtaposing the events of the old dispensation with realities surrounding Christ while he lived as man.
He moved further to explain that the passion narrative projects the shame of dying on the cross, to mean that Jesus was lifted up, glorified and exalted. The homilist revealed that Jesus was not crucified by either the Jews or Pilate, but by sins of the world. And that the more mankind continues to sin, Jesus is re-crucified.
Fr. Udechukwu also revealed that the passion narrative projected Christ as an innocent man, who was condemned and killed unjustly. This was brought to fore by the confession of Judas when he returned the 30 pieces of silver, by the declaration of Pilate when he said that he found nothing against Jesus, and by the admission of the official who pierced the side of Jesus, when he said ‘he is indeed the Son of God’.
Concluding the enriching homily, Fr. Udechukwu opined that Jesus remains on the Cross though not physically, but in his promises of assisting his followers in their moments of sufferings and hopelessness. Hence, he admonished all to learn not to follow the easy way or a way bereft of the cross, but true Christians must learn the way of the Cross, bearing in mind that Christ is always there to help us.
The veneration of the cross succeeded the homily, after which the reception of Holy Communion followed. Announcements and a short prayer, which included a prayer over the people, concluded the celebration, as all departed in silence.
Holy Saturday / Easter Vigil
The Holy Saturday of this year came on 15th April, 2017. Traditionally, the liturgy of Holy Saturday night is composed of 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 celebration was coloured by the presence of priests, both resident and non-resident, female religious, friends and benefactors of the seminary as Rev. Fr. Dr. Blaise Emebo presided over the High Mass. The Exultet was then rendered by Rev. Daniel Okolie. With the opening prayer, three readings with their corresponding responsorial psalms preceded ‘the Great Alleluia’ sung by the chief celebrant melodiously. The Gloria accompanied by ringing of bells, which was suspended at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The reading from the epistle of St. Paul was taken before the Deacon proclaimed the Gospel.
The Homily by Fr. Blaise Emebo pointed out that the universal Church celebrates her liberation from the fear of death, as Jesus rose from the dead and promised same to those who believe in him. According to him, Christ gives his followers by this celebration the audacity to hope for victory.
He charged all to reflect on the uniqueness of the resurrection experience, which transformed the doubting Thomas as well as the frightful Peter and disciples. He, therefore, urged all to remove anything that could prevent one from seeing God – addiction, bad habit, likes or dislikes. Finally, the Docmatic theologian admonished all to make into a way of life everything they imbibed by the faithful observance of lent – prayer, arms giving – and in this way, one will be living the new life of the resurrection which the church demands from her members.
At any rate, four persons received baptism as they took the names; Stella, Mary-Cynthia, Esther and Joseph. All the faithful renewed their baptismal vows. After the post communion prayer, Fr. Hygianus Mba gave the vote of thanks. As it were, the liturgical and sonorous music proceeding from the Bigard Mian Choir and the Band of Bigard animated the liturgy.
Announcing the celebration of Easter the official calendar of the Western Church solemnly proclaims: “This is the day which the Lord has made, the feast of feasts, and our Pasch; the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ according to the flesh”. Bigard family and friends on Sunday 16th April, 2017, joined the universal church, as they commemorate the resurrection of Christ. The liturgy of the day, which commenced at 7:30am, was presided by Rev Fr. Silvanus Nnoruka.
In his homily Fr. Silvanus Nnoruka expressed that the message of resurrection is essentially an object of faith, and so, in the face of skepticism and attack on the message, Christians should remain resolute and faithful to the message they handed over to the Church on the resurrection of the Lord. Hence, the homilist averred that the experience of the resurrection is not some subjective inner experience.
According to him, the summary of the resurrection message is that mankind should look up to things that are above. Hence, he urged all to concentrate more on spreading the true message of the season and not concern themselves with only praying against their enemies or always asking for one favour or another from God.
Auspiciously, the liturgy of the Word was supervened by the liturgy of the Eucharist wherein some candidates received their first Holy Communion.
The Bigard family wishes all and sundry Happy Easter Celebration!