A reminder that life will always conquer death
Saint Paul writes (1 Corinthians 15:14) in his first letter to the Corinthians that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then both his preaching and the whole Christian faith is in vain. The resurrection was so important for the early disciples of Jesus that they willingly risked their own lives to preach it. For more than two millennia, Christians around the world have marked this event in ritual and remembrance.
In the city of Jerusalem – where the original tomb of Jesus can still be found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the faithful and the curious come regularly to see where this great mystery took place. The celebration of Easter is the most important feast in the whole Christian tradition, and it even surpasses in splendour the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas Day.
For the Roman Catholic Church, which dates itself to the time of Jesus, the three days of Easter involves a remembrance of many events. The humility with which Jesus washed the feet of his twelve disciples at the Last Supper shows all Christians how they must act in the world. The breaking of bread and the sharing of wine – proclaimed by Jesus to be his body and blood – reveal how intimately he continues to dwell in our midst and our very bodies.
The culmination of the three days focuses on his crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection on the third day. The liturgy on Good Friday often involves praying the Stations of the Cross. This is a pious – yet ancient – devotion in which the last fourteen events in the life of Jesus are narrated and considered. These stations are frequently community events in which Catholics come together to look once again at how Jesus spent his last hours before death.
If the story stopped there – with his passion and crucifixion on Friday – the Christian faith would be rather absurd. This is thankfully not the end of the celebration, for it concludes instead with a great vigil late on Saturday night. At this sacred celebration, which is the longest and most solemn event of the whole year, Catholics gather with candles to stand vigil as they remember the promise that Jesus would be raised from the dead. With scriptural readings that describe the whole of salvation history – narratives about the creation of the world, the great flood, and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt – the service reaches its climax with bells, music, light, and joy when words about the resurrection are proclaimed.
For the large Catholic community in Winnipeg, most of these celebrations take place in local parishes. This means that every local Catholic church will celebrate independently the washing of feet on the Thursday and pray about the crucifixion on the Friday. It is nevertheless a tradition in Winnipeg that – in addition to local parish events – the whole city is invited to attend a communal celebration of the Stations of the Cross. The local Archbishop leads this event on Friday, and the procession moves along the roadway with large crowds gathering in reflective prayer. Late on Saturday evening, every parish will then have its own celebration of the Easter vigil after the sun sets.
St. Paul’s College – as the Roman Catholic college on campus – annually marks the three-day celebration of the Easter liturgy. The dates and times are as follows:
- Holy Thursday (the Lord’s Supper) on Thursday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. – St. Paul’s College chapel
- Stations of the Cross on Friday, April 3 at 2 p.m. – Beginning at the Tier Building
- Good Friday liturgy on Friday, April 3 at 3 p.m. – St. Paul’s College chapel
- Easter Vigil (and potluck) on Saturday, April 4 at 8:30 p.m. – St. Paul’s College chapel.
Everyone is most welcome to attend any or all of the events at St. Paul’s College.
Any inquiries or questions can be directed toward Sister Elaine Beate (elaine.baete @umanitoba.ca) who serves as the Director of Campus Ministry at the college.
The celebration of Easter is always a time of great joy for Roman Catholics. It reminds them that the resurrection of Jesus has paved the way to eternal life for all Christian faithful. At its core, Easter is an annual remembrance that no matter what hardships we might face, light will always tame the darkness and life will always conquer death.