The Ceremonies of Holy Week
Today, Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, when we remember and make present Our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem which will ultimately result in His Passion and Death. As you walk in the procession today, imagine you are a member of the crowd and praise Him as you walk with your palm. And perhaps this evening, try and imagine Our Lord contemplating what He knew lay ahead of Him in the coming week.
Lent ends when the Triduum (three days) begins on Maundy Thursday and we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This was the very first Mass during which Our Lord changed the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood and when He ordained the Apostles His first priests. The washing of the feet reminds us that the priesthood is always in service of others. Because of the gravity of these days, the bells are rung at the Gloria and then remain silent until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil. At the Consecration a ratchet or noise maker is used instead of the bells to indicate the Church has now entered a period of mourning. Then follows the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose where we are invited to keep watch. We are reminded of Our Lord’s words, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with Me” (Mt. 26:28). The altars in the church are then stripped since Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday.
Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord is a day of mourning. All is desolation in the church. The altar is bare, the tabernacle is empty and all ornament is removed. It is a day of prayer, fasting and abstinence. During the Sacred Liturgy we venerate and kiss the Cross to honour Christ’s sacrifice for our sake. If you receive Holy Communion, recall that the word “host” comes from the Latin “hostia” meaning victim. All depart in silence.
The Easter Vigil is the climax of Holy Week and begins with the solemn blessing of the Easter Fire and the Procession of the Paschal Candle into the dark church. JESUS is the light in the darkness. We listen to the prophecies foretelling all these events, and then suddenly at the Gloria the bells are rung, the organ played, announcing Christ’s glorious Resurrection from the dead and His victory over sin, death and Satan.
All these events are made present to us in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. They are not a mere commemoration of past events. I urge you to do your best to be present for this holiest of weeks in the life of the Church.
Fr Paul Gillham IC