This year we used the Korean Diakonos Center for the Ash Wednesday service. It is a comfortable facility and it is also on the west side of town and more convenient for many of our parishioners. We had probably the largest crowd yet for Ash Wednesday. Up until three years ago, the security situation was not good and people were more afraid to venture out after dark so we gave out ashes on the First Sunday of Lent.
Stations of the Cross
In year gone by it was too dangerous to be out after dark so there were never any evening services like the stations. The security situation has improved in Phnom Penh now, though, so we have begun having the stations of the cross during Lent. This service, on a Friday evening, drew just a small crowd, partly because it is a difficult area to reach at night and partly because of an unseasonal rain that came up.
At the annual chrism mass, the bishops from all of Cambodia bless the holy oils to be used in the sacraments during the coming year. This year’s service was notable because of the really heavy unseasonable rain (the rainy season doesn’t start till May) which put a half inch of water in the entrance way of the church. A large PVC pipe, split lengthwise, was used as a scoop to shove water back out the doors and one of the Missionaries of Charity followed up with a mop.
Preparing the Lenten Environment
Fr. Bob Wynne (behind the altar) is full of ideas and energy when it comes to creating an appropriate liturgical environment. He is constantly thinking of ways to make our worship space more attractive and more supportive of the people’s presence and participation. Here with Iwan Baskoro he changes the cloths covering the altar.
This is the blessing of the palms at the beginning of the liturgy at St. Joseph Church on Sunday morning. The Filipinos are born with a gene for weaving the straight fronds of palm into all sorts of intricate shapes and patterns. You can see some of their handiwork in the picture above.
Fr. Charlie Dittmeier was the celebrant for our Holy Thursday liturgy this evening. Here he washes the feet of members of the congregation.
The service is different from the usual mass because of the addition of the washing of the feet after the homily. It also ends differently. There is no blessing and dismissal but the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to a small side altar. It is incensed there and then the congregation disperses in silence after a period of silent adoration.
Today is both New Year’s Day for the Khmer Year and Good Friday. As we rode in a tuk-tuk to St. Joseph Church for the Good Friday service, we passed a mother-and-daughter team going to sell books and trinkets to the tourists and revelers along the riverfront.
There is no mass on Good Friday. The liturgy starts in silence as the priest, Fr. Kevin Conroy, enters in silence and prostrates on the floor in front of the altar as all others kneel.
There is a Liturgy of the Word, then veneration of the cross, and then a communion service. Here the people come forward to show respect for the cross that came the instrument of our salvation.
The service ended as it began in silence. Then shortly after the people had left, the sanctuary was rearranged and decorated for the Easter Sunday celebration to come. We don’t live at this church so we must always think ahead and have things ready when we arrive there for a service.
The Easter Vigil
Today was the high point of the church’s liturgical year. There is no liturgical celebration during the day on Holy Saturday, but in the evening there is the vigil for the celebration of Easter. We celebrated at World Vision, our usual venue for any Saturday liturgies.
The difficult part of using World Vision is that we have to carry back and forth from the Maryknoll office many of the decorations and other materials that we use. Here Fr. Bob Wynne and Beata Pratiwi set up the altar and flowers while Marilyn Lopez prepares one of the readings.
Our choir put much time into practices for the variety of musical pieces that are used in an Easter Vigil service. Tonight we were fortunate to have with us Miwako, a professional musician, on the keyboard.
The first part of the ceremony begins in darkness with the lighting of the new fire from which the large paschal or Easter candle is lit. This took place up on the stage the choir uses so that there would be better visibility for the congregation.
The Easter candle is carried into the sanctuary area of the hall and then the people’s candles are lit to show that they share the light of Christ through baptism. Actually, because of fire safety concerns, we now use battery-powered candles rather than those with an open flame.
When the Easter candle has been put in place at the altar, a joyful Easter proclamation, called the Exsultet, is sung. This year Hannah Lyn Bandalan sang it.
Easter Sunday Morning
At the Easter Sunday morning 10:00 AM mass, we had a more-than-full house even though many of the expats took long holidays this week because of the Khmer New Year. Here Fr. Bob Wynne incenses the paschal candle at the beginning of the service.
After mass we had coffee and doughnuts under a shelter below our building. We had lots of people eating and drinking and it is always so rewarding to see people meeting and getting to know each other.
Couples for Christ asked if they could do something for the parish and then agreed to take over the coffee and doughnuts on the third Sunday of every month. It is a wonderful contribution to the life of our community!