The Holy Week this year started on Sunday 25th March, 2018 (Palm Sunday) and ended on Sunday 1st April, 2018 (Easter Sunday). Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, in her usual nature joined the universal church in this most sacred and solemn celebration.
As has been the custom of the Church, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week. This year’s Palm Sunday was held on Sunday 25th day of March, 2018 being the 6th Sunday of Lent. The ceremony of the Palm Sunday is divided into three parts: The blessing of the palm, the procession to the church, and the Holy Mass.
The first part of the celebration which is the blessing of the palm took place in front of the seminary auditorium. The chief celebrant, Rev. Fr. Dr. Mellitus Ossai, in explaining how important this week is to the Church, proclaimed that Christianity gained its cause and meaning within the Holy Week.
Furthermore, he reminded the faithful present of the need to follow the Jews to receive Jesus Christ not in the capital city of Jerusalem but in their hearts which is the capital city of practical life. He finally identified that palms signify a joyful reception and thus they should proceed with joy into the house of the Lord holding their palms. With these words of exhortation, the solemn procession with palms and songs of praise led all into the Bigard Main Chapel.
The third part of the day’s celebration was the Holy Mass, which continued with the liturgy of the Word. The principal celebrant, Rev. Fr. Dr. Mellitus Ossai, in his homily reminded all that the Holy Week is a veritable opportunity to reconcile with God by bringing into fulfilment the three Lenten observances: fasting, praying and almsgiving. In his words: “The Jews wanted a political leader who will defeat the Roman Caesar and his armies but Jesus in contrary to their expectations demonstrated to them that he is a religious leader and goes further to die for the truth of his identity.” He went further to encourage all to stop following superstitious preachers who mirror an identity different from their practical exhibitions.
Holy Thursday, also 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. Calistus Onaga, 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 that the events of the Holy Thursday are anchored on the Lord’s words in the Gospel of St. John 13:1: “the hour has come for the Son of God to be glorified.” He recalled that Holy Thursday is the fullness of this hour.
He went further to exclaim that “Jesus’s entering into Jerusalem to undergo the suffering of the cross elucidates the hour that has come. It is equally because his hour has come that he had to wash the feet of his disciples, so as to teach them the rudiments of life that they should live after his death.” Furthermore, borrowing from Pope Benedict XVI in his book Jesus of Nazareth, the preacher explained the action of washing of feet by Jesus Christ with two concepts: sacramentum and exemplum, with sacramentum meaning cleansing and purification of actual sin, while exemplum is washing of each other’s feet through or as an act of love. He further admonished all to follow Christ’s example by washing each other’s feet through the practice of the virtues of humility, service, love and charity.
After the homily came the washing of the feet of twelve persons from the congregation, in demonstration of Christ’s humility and service. At the end of the Mass the Blessed Sacrament was taken in a procession to the Altar of Repose, and this was followed by the vigil in which the people of God in turns waited in watchful prayer with the Lord ‘at least for an hour’ till mid-night.
The liturgical ceremony of Good Friday is made up of two major parts.
1. Part I. The Stations of the Cross.
2. Part II is 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 alike)
b. The Veneration of the Cross
c. Communion Service
The Stations of the Cross which was accompanied by passion drama started at 3:00 PM. This was followed by Lenten fast collection.
Bearing in mind that Holy Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday, the second phase of the solemn ceremony of Good Friday started with a service presided over by Rev. Fr. Damian Udechukwu. In his excellently articulated homily, Fr. Udechukwu stated that the death of Jesus Christ was a huge surprise to the Jews and mostly to his Apostles. This is because even though they anxiously expected a Messiah, they consciously never expected a suffering Messiah. In his words; “Their minds were set on a noble, glorious, and powerful Messiah.”He went on to elucidate that although the idea of the suffering messiah is in its fullness mentioned at different places and in different perspectives in the Old Testament, the Jews were not keen in finding out whom the passages were referring to. He made mention of different verses such as the Songs of the Servant of Jahweh in Deutero-Isaiah (particularly Isa 42:1-9, 49: 1-7, 50, 4-9; 52,13-53,12) and Psalms 22,31,34 etc.
According to him, “the apostles themselves never bore the idea of this suffering Messiah, rather they were preoccupied with the glorious gain and success attributed to a worldly messiah.” Hence, it was this preconceived idea that made them to run away and abandon Jesus when suffering ensued. He observed that attitudes and actions similar to that are found among the present day faithful who abandon their faith in the face of miniature problems and temptations.
Finally, he made a clarion call to all Christians to carry their crosses and follow Christ because the cross is the banner of Christianity. In his words, “Jesus that died on the Cross is one who saves and he called all Christians to carry their crosses and follow him”. All Christians, therefore, have different crosses to carry and the way one carries his/her own cross determines his/her Christian faith and subsequent salvation.
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 went sorrowfully away, as Christ still laid buried in the tomb.
The solemn liturgy of this Holy night is usually categorized into four ritually related and complementary parts:
a. The Service of Light,
c. Renewal of baptismal vows and
d. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
At the beginning of the Service of Light, the whole of Bigard compound experienced a total blackout as all lights were put off. The ceremony which began in front of the Bigard Main 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 profession of the Risen Christ as the light of the world. The Exultet, the Easter song of exaltation, was then solemnly rendered by Rev. Bonaventure Ngwoke.
In his homily the chief celebrant Rev. Fr. JohnBosco Okoye enjoined the whole congregation to echo with joy because the Mother Church celebrates joyfully with all her children the most essential and culminating event in the history of human salvation–the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his words: “For the past 40 days, all the Christians have persevered in carrying their crosses and in the rugged trial journey of faith in anticipation of this dawn of glory and celebration.” The principal celebrant went further to state that what all the Christians celebrate today is the liberation from the slavery of sin and the captivity of death, consequential to the derailment of our first parents. Hence he admonished all Christians that, having been costly redeemed, they should follow Him– Christ, who is the Way, Truth and the life; for whoever follows him shall never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. Finally, he charged all Christians in his words: “Your life as Christians should be the life of sacrifice, caring, generosity and love so as to renew the face of the earth in Christ.”
After the homily, four candidates for adult Baptism were 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 in communion with the Universal Church celebrated the triumphant resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on 1st April 2018 being Easter Sunday. The Holy Mass was presided over by Rev. Fr. Dr. Francis Igboanugo. In his well-articulated reflection he recognized in his words, “that the entire Christian world rejoices today because of Christ’s resurrection, which is first and foremost the kernel of Christian faith.” Going further, he explained that the mystery 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. Taking recourse to St. Paul, the homilist observed that St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians used the whole of chapter 15 to explain the resurrection events. However, in spite of his strenuous and logical arguments, the facticity of the resurrection still remains controversial to many.
Nevertheless, giving more credence to the facticity of Christ’s resurrection he gave out four take-home points.
a. Christ’s resurrection is a mystery and cannot fully be “masticated and digested” by human intellect.
b. Christ’s resurrection is a binding force of Christian belief and faith. Christians disagree in many doctrines such as Trinity, Mary as the mother of God etc., but the fact of the resurrection has remained a universal article of faith of Christians.
c. For those who believe, no proof is necessary and
d. Finally for those who do not belief, no proof is sufficient.
Fr. Igboanugo further stated that “there could have been no need for Christianity if Christ did not conquerdeath because it is his resurrection that gave birth to Christianity.” According to him, it is only a belief in the resurrection that spurs one to die with Christ so as to resurrect with him at the final time. Finally, he enjoined all to die with Christ by imitating his life and principles which he himself lived while on earth. Hence, it is by doing this that one can gloriously resurrect with him at the end of this earthly journey.
After the homily, the Holy Mass went on as usual. During the Mass, a number of children and adults received the Holy Communion for the first time.
The Bigard Family wishes you a glorious Easter season.