St. George's Easter week full of special moments

by Staff Reports


Debby Dye

Assisted by Deacon Jim Bishop, Father Henry Atem, pastor of St. George Catholic Church, incenses the Book of Gospels at the beginning of Easter Sunday Mass.

St. George Catholic Church was filled with activity during Holy Week -- including moments of pageantry, times for solemn reflection and the child-fueled fun of an Easter egg hunt.

Holy Thursday -- also known as Maundy Thursday -- included the ritual washing of feet, a recalling of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The term “maundy” derives from the Latin word “mandatum” meaning a command. It refers to the words of the Christ, “so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” 

Holy Saturday was largely spent in preparation for the main liturgy of the day, the Easter Vigil, which began at sundown. Easter Vigil has a unique pattern and place in the liturgical year.

As day turned into night, Atem, pastor of the church, lit the solitary, large, blessed Easter Candle from a new fire.  Led by Deacon Jim Bishop carrying the Easter Candle, a procession formed with each person holding a smaller candle lit from the Easter Candle.

The group proceeded into the church proper, where the ancient verses of the Exultet (Rejoice!) were sung by the Deacon of the Word, Steve Beers. Beers later proclaimed the gospel for the Easter Vigil Mass.

At the end of the Exultet, the candles of the assembly were extinguished.

Easter Vigil is the longest liturgy of the church year, lasting nearly three hours.

There were six Scripture selections and Psalms was read from the Hebrew Testament.  Then the Gloria in Excelsis, intoned by Atem, the celebrant, was sung by the assembly.

For the first time since Holy Thursday liturgy, the church bells were rung and musical accompaniment allowed. After the Gloria, a selection from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans was read, another Psalm sung, and the Gospel read from Matthew describing the discovery of the empty tomb where the Body of Jesus was laid after His death on Good Friday.

The uniqueness of this Liturgy is seen in the next event, the Baptism of catechumens -- washed in freshly blessed water and anointed by the new oils from the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta a few days earlier. Baptisms were followed by the reception of the candidates, and the Confirmation of the Elect, anointed with new Chrism.

The Easter Vigil continued as a usual Mass with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, during which Atem confected the bread and wine on the altar. Neophytes -- as the new members are called -- were then welcomed to the altar where they received their First Holy Communion, after which the members of the assembly received.  After reflection and closing prayers, Atem gave the final blessing, a three-part Solemn Blessing reserved for this Vigil.

The Vigil ended with the command of  the deacon to “Go forth, the Mass is ended, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

This year the Hispanic Community at St. George was favored with a separate Easter Vigil. Bishop Luis Zarama, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, led that service.

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