As a freelance documentary photographer, one of my clients is the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, and as a lifelong Catholic, it is a special honor to be able to document and share my faith. Since each liturgy includes unique visual elements, it is exciting to photograph; they include everything from palms to oils, small candles in the dark to a larger fire outdoors and all sorts of processions. Each of these make the different Masses visually interesting, and sometimes challenging.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, during which Christians commemorate Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the Jews waved palm branches and sang "Hosanna!" as praise. Christians recall this by processing with palms. This year, the Most Rev. Joseph Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, celebrated a Feed the Fire Youth Mass at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Midland.
On Tuesday, I covered the Chrism Mass, during which the oils to be used for different sacraments are blessed by the bishop. The Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption was packed with almost 700 people from all 56 parishes across the diocese.
Thursday was the beginning of the Easter Triduum— three sacred days, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper and includes the ritual washing of feet, recalling how Jesus washed the feet of His 12 disciples at the Last Supper.
At the end of Mass, the faithful process with the Blessed Sacrament to an altar of repose instead of the church's tabernacle. This recalls Jesus going to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives before being arrested.
On Good Friday, the liturgy is very solemn as the faithful remember and mourn Jesus' death. The Passion narrative is read from the Gospel of John and parishioners have the opportunity to reverence the Cross.
The Easter Vigil is celebrated on Holy Saturday at sundown. It begins with the blessing of the Easter Fire, which is used to light the Paschal Candle that symbolizes the Light of Christ. The candle is used to light the faithful's candles as the process into the cathedral. As Scripture readings tell the story of salvation from the creation of the world through the Gospel account of the Resurrection, the lights are gradually turned on.
Finally, Easter Sunday: the joyful celebration of Jesus' Resurrection! The Cathedral was packed and I must admit I enjoyed seeing all the sweet little ones. Bishop Cistone invited them all up to the front for a little while, but when it was time to return to their seats, one little girl wanted to stay.
Easter Sunday Mass, like the vigil the night before, includes blessings with incense and holy water.