Diocese of Portland announces directives for Holy Week observances

The Diocese of Portland has informed Maine parishes of the protocols that will be in place for the celebration of the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter.

All celebrations must be limited to/not exceed ten people or less, including all clergy, and will not be open to the public due to the regulations currently in place in Maine as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Without public Masses and commemorations, there will be unprecedented live-streaming and broadcasting of liturgies from parishes across Maine (information listed below).

Here are some of the changes being made this year specific to certain celebrations:

Palm Sunday (April 5)

To ensure the safety of all parishioners, no plans or provisions will be made at parishes to distribute palms to the faithful. Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week with the palm branches symbolizing the branches used by the people to welcome Jesus as King during his triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem.

Chrism Mass (April 7)

The Chrism Mass, scheduled for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Portland, has been postponed to a date to be announced. At the Chrism Mass, in the presence of priests, deacons, religious and laity from throughout the diocese, Bishop Deeley blesses the oil of the sick and the oil of the catechumens, and consecrates the sacred Chrism. The oil of the sick is used to anoint the sick. The oil of the catechumens (people preparing for baptism) is blessed to strengthen those preparing for baptism to resist sin and to grow in faith. The sacred Chrism is used for baptism, confirmation, ordination of priests, and the consecration of altars and churches. The Chrism Mass is also an opportunity for the priests of the diocese to renew their commitment to priestly service.

Mass of the Holy Oils (April 8)

The Mass of the Holy Oils, scheduled for Sacred Heart Church in North Caribou, has been cancelled. The Mass of the Oils includes the distribution of the blessed and consecrated oils to parishes located in northern Maine.

Holy Thursday (April 9)

Holy Thursday Masses of the Lord’s Supper will not include the washing of the feet (already optional) that symbolizes Jesus’ washing the feet of the apostles. The traditional procession with the Blessed Sacrament after communion is omitted. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples and is a celebration of Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, his true body and blood, and the gift of the Mass to the Church.

Good Friday (April 10)

The cross customarily used for adoration/veneration on Good Friday will be placed in the sanctuary before the commemoration of the Passion of the Lord begins with the traditional processions customarily held eliminated for this year. The priest/celebrant alone will be permitted to kiss the cross as an act of adoration. From the earliest days of Christianity, no Mass has been celebrated on Good Friday, the only day of the year on which that occurs. Instead, the faithful gather for special liturgies focusing on the cross to commemorate the saving passion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus.

Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil (April 11)

The celebration of the Easter Vigil is only permitted in parishes where it can be live-streamed. The initiation sacraments (i.e., that is, all baptisms, receptions into full communion, confirmations and first Communions) will not be celebrated at this year’s Easter Vigils. The lighting and blessing of the Lucernarium (Easter fire) is omitted. The vigil is considered the greatest and noblest of all the Church’s solemnities, as Christians around the world join together in celebrating the resurrection of the Lord.

The Diocese of Portland has created a Coronavirus Response page that lists ways to participate in Maine Masses from home through livestreams, television, and radio; “drive-thru” confessions and other faith opportunities; prayer resources; announcements and much more. To access the section, visit www.portlanddiocese.org/content/response-coronavirus.

A special Lent section is available on the Diocese of Portland’s website with resources to assist individuals and families during their Lenten journey. To visit the site, go to www.portlanddiocese.org/lent-resources.

Please help the light of faith keep shining at your parish by giving online or through your parish app. Your help is needed now more than ever. A list of parishes with links to online giving for each of them can be found here: www.portlanddiocese.org/OnlineGiving.


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