On Palm Sunday, we go up to Jerusalem with Jesus to hail Him as our sovereign Lord and King. In doing so we enter into the holiest week of the Church’s liturgical calendar. In taking up palms we are reminded that each of us has an active role to play as the drama of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection unfolds throughout the next seven days. The beautiful ceremonies of Holy Week are not meant to be mere recollections or dramatizations of past events; rather the liturgical celebrations of Christ's passion, death and resurrection are "memorials" in the fullest sense of that term. This means that the ceremonies of Holy Week actually make present the events of that first Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday in Jerusalem. In other words, Jesus will suffer, die and rise again through our sacramental celebrations of Holy Week and Easter. Catholics are encouraged to make this a truly holy week through increased acts of penance, fasting and prayerful devotion. Please plan on attending the solemn liturgies of Holy Week which recall and make present the redemption Christ won for you and me.
Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord's Supper
After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus instructed his Apostles to make preparations for the traditional Jewish Passover meal. During the meal – His Last Supper – Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, whereby we personally receive his Body and Blood and share in the fruits of his redemptive sacrifice. The Mass of Holy Thursday recalls the institution of this Sacrament of Love and challenges us not only to receive the sacrificial love of Christ, but to share it with others. Further, in a very real sense we are present in that Cenacle as He ordains His first priests, so that Christ's saving ministry will never be absent from our lives.
Good Friday, Liturgy of the Lord's Passion
Earlier, Jesus had told his Apostles that they were going to Jerusalem where He would be handed over, made to suffer and be put to death. The words of the Apostle Thomas are words that we might have on our own lips as we observe our Lord’s Sacred Passion: “Let us also go, that we might die with him” (JN 11:16). On Good Friday, we accompany our Lord on His Way of the Cross and stand with His mother Mary at the foot of the cross, knowing that our sins have caused such agony. We venerate the Cross on this day. Adoration or veneration of an image or representation of Christ's cross does not mean that we actually adore the material image, of course, but rather what it represents. In kneeling before the crucifix and kissing it we are paying the highest honor to our Lord's cross as the instrument of our salvation. Because the Cross is inseparable from His sacrifice, in reverencing His Cross we, in effect, adore Christ. Thus, we affirm: 'We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee because by Thy Holy Cross Thou has Redeemed the World.'
Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil Mass
The Easter Vigil Mass is a rich liturgical moment through which we are drawn into Christ’s victory over sin, darkness and death. Beginning in total darkness – which symbolizes the cold reality of sin and death – the Easter Vigil is a powerful ceremony that conveys the ability of the Risen Christ to bring light to the world through the Easter Sacraments. During the Easter Vigil, the Sacraments of the Church will be offered for the first time to those RCIA candidates converting to the Catholic faith.
Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord
This is the day we’ve been waiting and preparing for throughout the season of Lent. As we have committed with God’s help to overcome the darkness of sin, today we rejoice that the Paschal Mystery of Christ has stripped away whatever may keep us from God.We glory in the knowledge that Christ has risen, sin and death have been defeated, and our redemption has been accomplished.
May this truly be a Holy Week for the faithful. May we step back from the hectic pace of life for just one week and dedicate these days to contemplating what Jesus has done for us, and what He continues to do for us today.