Will you be there?
The events that will be happening in church this week are better than any movie you have ever seen or ever will see. Be sure not to miss any of it, otherwise you won’t get the full plot!
Holy Week begins today, Palm Sunday, when we commemorate JESUS’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the Jews cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and strew palm branches and garments in His path. Palms will be blessed and we will walk in solemn procession with them. The words of today’s Second Reading summarise the whole of Holy Week: “Christ did not cling to His equality with God, but emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became obedient even unto death, death on a cross. But God raised Him high…” (Philippians 2:7-8).
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are fairly quiet, but during this time Judas plots his betrayal of Christ. Then begins the Sacred Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. These are the three holiest days of the year.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper, where Our Lord at the Passover meal with His disciples instituted the Most Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood. He changed the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood, and then instituted the Priesthood by saying to the Apostles, “Do this in memory of Me.” He also washed their feet. In the Old Testament this was done before priestly ordination. So Our Lord washed the feet of the Apostles because He was about to ordain them His first priests. Without the Priesthood there is no Holy Eucharist, there is no Mass, so let us give thanks for this double gift. The bells are rung at the Gloria of this Mass and then they remain silent until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil. At the Consecration, a ratchet or noise maker is used instead to indicate that we have now entered into a time of mourning. Then we will have the beautiful Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose where there will be Watching until 10.30pm. Adore Our Lord as He passes you in the procession and then spend some time with Him as the Apostles did in the Garden of Gethsemane. “My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matthew 26:28). The altars in the church are stripped and the tabernacle is left empty.
I have explained many times how the Mass makes Christ’s sacrificial death on Calvary present. But Good Friday is the day it actually happened, so we don’t celebrate Mass on this day because we are living the reality. We don’t consecrate the bread and wine on Good Friday because it is actually happening in front of us. But after the solemn unveiling and adoration of the Cross, Holy Communion is distributed. During this Liturgy, think of standing at the foot of the cross with Our Lady, St John and St Mary Magdalene, and if you receive Holy Communion, recall that the word ‘host’ means ‘victim’.
Then comes Holy Saturday which is a day of quiet meditation as Our Lord’s body is in the tomb, but His soul is in Limbo announcing the Redemption to the Holy Souls, who because of the sin of Adam and Eve, up until now, could not enter Heaven. Then in the evening we celebrate the Easter Vigil which is the climax of Holy Week with the solemn blessing of the Easter Fire and the Procession of the Paschal Candle into the dark church symbolising the Risen Christ Himself, Who is “the light of the world” (John 9:5). We listen to the prophecies foretelling these events, and then at the Gloria, the bells ring jubilantly, the organ is played and the Alleluia is heard again as Christ’s triumphant Resurrection is announced to the world. He is victorious over death and Satan. We will also share the joy of those being baptised, and we renew our own Baptismal Promises, being determined to follow Christ ever more faithfully. Will you be there?
Fr Paul Gillham, IC