“Ain’t no party like a Catholic party, because a Catholic party don’t stop.”

Scrolling down my Tumblr feed and procrastinating as usual, I chuckled as I spotted this phrase amidst a slew of Easter-related posts.  A blogger on Tumblr managed to capture in a very simple and succinct sentence the Church’s policy on feasting.  Throughout history, if there has been one defining feature of the mystical body of Christ, it’s that Catholics love to party.

Like many individuals on campus, I’ve been saying the A-word lately. You know, that word which we were forbidden to say during Lent.  The gloominess of Lent finds release in the first joyful outburst of “Alleluia!” at the Easter Vigil.

Holy Week 2012 was memorable for a variety of reasons. For one, it was my first Holy Week at Notre Dame.  Holy Week in itself is an exciting time, but Holy Week at ND?

After the impeccably-timed palm procession two Sundays ago, I wondered how the liturgical expertise of Rev. Peter Rocca, CSC, rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, could top itself.  With elegant banners, maybe?  A fiery contingent of candles, perhaps?  Followed by an amazing series of choirs accompanied by skilled musicians?  All these and more made their appearance throughout the Holy Week liturgies.

The provincial superior of the United States Province, Rev. David T. Tyson, CSC, presided at the Mass held on Maundy Thursday.  Fr. Tyson’s homily centered on how we can encounter Christ in our daily lives.  “During these most holy three days, let us then immerse ourselves in the paschal mystery,” he said.

The Mass was concluded by the transferal of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose in the Lady Chapel.  All the tabernacles on campus were emptied, reminding one of Christ’s impending departure into death.

At 11 p.m. on Holy Thursday, I attended my first TENEBRAE (Latin for “darkness”), a prayer service consisting primarily of psalms, led by His Excellency Bishop Kevin Rhoades.  TENEBRAE illustrates the sacramental and symbolic nature of Catholic worship.  The gradual extinguishing of candles in front of the altar represented Satan’s temporary victory over good.

As the basilica darkened, I heard several gasps and then a hush of silence blanketed the congregation. The STREPITUS (great noise) then pierced the calm, hearkening back to the earthquake which occurred after our Lord’s death on the cross, a chaos of sounds made by the banging of books and pews.

The somberness of Good Friday was beautifully expressed with a musical rendition of the Passion of our Lord according to St. John involving a talented cantor and an angelic harp.  Before receiving communion, the congregation was invited to venerate the wood of the cross. Stations of the Cross followed the service.

Holy Saturday was relatively peaceful. I left the basilica after confession to find several individuals sitting in chairs and others forming a line in front of the main doors of the vestibule, camping out and ready to find good seats for the Easter Vigil Mass.

Ninety minutes before Mass began, every pew was filled with expectant faces, from the excited catechumens awaiting baptism and first communion to the elderly who had seen countless Easter liturgies yet somehow were still left in awe by the paschal mystery.

The basilica was again darkened, and Fr. Rocca went about the blessing of the fire and the preparation of the Easter candle. After several prayers, the faithful with their candles received the light of Christ, garnered from the Easter candle itself as it made its way to the altar.

As lamps and candles were lit, everything inside the basilica seemed to gleam golden.  One could not help but be overwhelmed by the joy of the mass, the joy of Christ’s Resurrection.  The Notre Dame Liturgical Choir amazed while the crash of drums and the sound of trumpets from the choir loft called for the assembly to give glory to God.

Beyond the incense and bells, the Easter Vigil is certainly the culmination of the Church’s spiritual triumph.  Realize, however, that Easter is not just celebrated for one day. The paschal mystery is commemorated every day at Mass.  So if the fasting didn’t kill you, the feasting will.

Contact Jeremy DelaCruz at PrinzJeremy.L.DelaCruz.5@nd.edu for a cup of good cheer.