UNDERSTANDING YOUR FAITH: HOLY WEEK
By Vic Scaravilli
The final week of Lent is called Holy Week and is the most solemn time of the year for Christians. This last week is observed from Palm Sunday to the Easter Vigil on the following Saturday evening. It is a period of time that commemorates the events of Jesusí life from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem until his resurrection.
Palm or Passion Sunday is the Sixth Sunday of Lent and starts the Holy Week. The Mass begins with recalling and honoring Jesus as king when he returned to Jerusalem where palm branches were spread in his path. We also use palm branches in our worship today. They are blessed during mass and are used by us as a gesture of our love and reverence toward Jesus acknowledging him as our King as was done by the Jews.
After the palms are blessed and distributed, the most important part of the Mass is celebrated. The gospel reading is the Passion of Christ. As a result, the official name of this day is Passion Sunday. Passion comes from the Latin name, ďpassio,Ē which means suffering and endurance. The Passion is the Gospel account of the suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus. The Gospel reading sets the tone for the week.
The Gospel reading for Monday describes how Mary, the sister of Lazarus, poured a pound of costly spikenard on Jesusí feet. Unknowingly, Jesus explained, she did it for his future burial. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the other Passion readings of Mark and Lukeís Gospels are read.
The Triduum, Latin for ďthree days,Ē is the most solemn event of the Christian year. Beginning on the evening of Holy Thursday and closing on Easter, these days celebrate Christís passage from death to life.
Holy Thursday celebrates, in the evening, the Mass of the Lordís Supper commemorating the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. Jesus on the last evening of his earthly life chose to celebrate one last meal with his disciples. In celebrating the Passover meal, Jesus took bread and wine and after blessing it gave these to his disciples and told them that they are now his body and blood (Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:19-20). Jesus also commanded his disciples to always celebrate the Eucharist in memory of him. In Johnís Gospel, the Last Supper is begun by Jesus tying a towel around his waist and washing the feet of his disciples like a servant. It is an expressive symbol of the service through which the kingdom is to be established. (Jn. 13:1-20)
Good Friday is the only day the year when there is no Mass. The celebration of Mass is replaced by reciting special prayers, reading of the Passion from John, the veneration of the cross, and receiving communion. This special worship service allows us to recall the passion and death of Jesus by adoration of the cross that takes the place of the Eucharistic celebration. By venerating or giving the deepest respect and reverence to the cross, we acknowledge Jesusí death for us as well as recognize that through the cross of Jesus we are saved.
The Easter Vigil is the climax of the liturgical year. It is celebrated between sundown on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Sunday morning. This service celebrates Christ rising from death to life and the passing of Godís people from the bondage of sin to the freedom of being Godís children through the resurrection of Jesus. Salvation history is proclaimed through Scriptures climaxing in the joyous proclamation that Christ has risen. This is the Mass where catechumens and candidates receive the sacraments of initiation and all others renew their baptismal promises.
As we prepare to celebrate this solemn week that leads up to the greatest event in the history of mankind, let us always thank God for sending us his Son to die for us and for his resurrection that allows us the gift of everlasting life.