Many parishes are accustomed to having a special Mass to celebrate Anzac Day. What happens when April 25 falls on a Sunday as it does this year?

As explained in last week’s column about Divine Mercy Sunday, no solemnity or commemoration can take precedence over a Sunday of the Easter season. Therefore the Anzac Day Mass cannot be celebrated this year as April 25 is the Third Sunday of Easter and the prayers and scriptural readings of the day take precedence over those set down for Anzac Day. A look at these texts, however, show that they are very appropriate for this special day of remembrance.

The opening prayer is especially apt as we recall those whose youth or lives were sacrificed in war: “May we look forward with hope to our resurrection, for you have made us your sons and daughters, and restored the joy of our youth”.

Today’s psalm, Psalm 29, will have added poignancy and meaning on this day:

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me
and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord, you have raised my soul from the dead,
restored me to life from those who sink into the grave.

The commemorative of Anzac Day can also be suitably acknowledged in the liturgy through the decoration of the church, the choice of hymns, the homily and the prayers of intercession.

The difficulty posed to liturgists when special days fall on a Sunday will arise again on Mothers Day which is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. In fact parishes are bombarded with material for special collections and causes on most Sundays of the year. While our Sunday worship cannot be divorced from daily life and the realities of the world, we cannot let special intentions – even Anzac Day and Mothers Day – take over the liturgy.

The 1998 Apostolic Letter Dies Domini states this clearly in its first paragraph:

“Sunday recalls the day of Christ’s resurrection. It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christs victory over sin and death, the fulfilment in him of the first creation and the dawn of the ‘new creation’.”

If a particular theme or appeal overshadows the character of the Sunday Mass, or takes precedence over the prayers and readings, then a disservice is done both to the liturgy and the community.

As for Anzac Day, a special intention or appeal can be recognised in ways which don’t compromise the integrity of Sunday eucharist. It may be referred to in the Introductory Rites, the homily and hymns, and be the subject of one or two petitions in the Prayers of the Faithful.

While many of these themes or intentions may well be “worthy causes”, the Church assembles for eucharist on Sunday to celebrate something much more profound and fundamental – the paschal mystery.

Elizabeth Harrington