Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, says, “Holy Week, which for Christians is the most important week of the year, gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the central events of the redemption, to relive the paschal mystery, the great mystery of faith. How marvelous and at the same time surprising this mystery is! We can never sufficiently meditate on this reality.” Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday, “helps us to meditate more vividly on the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord, especially during the sacred Triduum of Easter, the cornerstone of the entire liturgical year.”
On each Palm Sunday, we remember that “at the gates of Jerusalem, when Jesus sat upright on a donkey, an animal symbolizing the Davidic kingship, there spontaneously arose among the pilgrims, (who were going up to Jerusalem for the Jewish celebration of the annual Passover Feast), the joyful conviction: This is He, the Son of David!” (Mark 11: 9-10). “We do not know exactly what the enthusiastic pilgrims imagined that the coming kingdom of David would be like.” However, on Palm Sunday, the Pope says, we must ask ourselves, “What about us? Have we truly understood the message of Jesus, the Son of David? Have we grasped what He means by His kingdom of which He speaks during His interrogation by Pilate? (John 18:33-37) Do we understand what it means to say that His kingdom is not of this world? Or would we actually prefer that it were of this world?”
The Sovereign Pontiff says, “The prelude to the sacred Triduum consists of the evocative rites of the Solemn Chrism Mass, which the Bishop celebrates with his priests, during which their priestly promises, made on the day of their ordination, are renewed, a gesture of great value, an especially favorable opportunity for priests to reaffirm their personal fidelity to Christ, Who has chosen them to be His ministers.” Holy Thursday, after all, when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist, was also the occasion when He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders, ordaining His Apostles as the first Catholic priests. It is the Sacrament of Holy Orders that, in the providence of God, alone makes possible the Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist.
“During the Chrism Mass the oil of the sick and the oil of catechumens will be blessed and the sacred Chrism will be consecrated. These are rites that symbolically signify the fullness of Christ’s priesthood and that ecclesial communion which must always inspire the Christian people who are gathered for the Eucharistic sacrifice and enlivened in their unity by the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
On Holy Thursday, in the Solemn Liturgy we hear, from Saint Paul’s writing, the oldest account we have of what happened in the Upper Room on the vigil of the Lord’s passion (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). The Pope remarks that our special liturgy on Holy Thursday “constitutes a renewed invitation to give thanks to God for the supreme Gift of the Eucharist and to receive the Body and Blood of our Savior with particular devotion and then to adore His sacramental presence with living faith. For this reason the Church encourages the faithful to keep vigil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament after the celebration of the Holy Thursday Mass, to recall the sorrowful hour that Jesus spent in Gethsemane before being arrested and then sentenced to death.”
In the ceremonies of Holy Thursday, we are reminded too “that the Lord of the world comes to us and undertakes the slave’s task of foot-washing. God, Who is absolute power, kneels before us to exalt us. The mystery of the greatness of God is seen precisely in the fact that He can be small.”
Friday Called Good
“Every year on Good Friday, standing before the image of Jesus hanging on the wood of the cross, we feel how full of love are His very words” and even more His saving deeds, in contrast to the wickedness, ugliness, selfishness, and horror of our own sins and those of the world, which He created and now dies to save! “The mystery eludes reason. We are placed before a thing which, humanly-speaking, may appear senseless. God, Who is not only a Man with all the needs of a man, not only suffers to save men, taking upon Himself the whole tragedy of humanity, but also actually dies for mankind. Christ’s death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that weigh upon the humanity of every age, the crushing weight of death, the hatred, the violence, the blood!”
“If Good Friday is a day full of sorrow, it is also at the same time a propitious time to reawaken our faith and to consolidate our hope and courage so that each one of us can carry our crosses with humility, trust, and abandonment to God, certain of His support and of His ultimate and inevitable victory. The liturgy of Good Friday each year proclaims: Hail holy cross! Our only hope!” In that liturgy we see Christ once more as the paschal Lamb of the New Testament, Whose blood on the doorposts of our souls causes the angel of death to “pass over “ us so we can live eternally in joy and be happy one day forever.
“The recollection and silence of Holy Saturday will usher us into the night of the Easter Vigil, “the mother of all vigils”, when the hymn of joy in Christ’s resurrection will burst forth once more in all our churches and communities. Once again, the victory of light over darkness, of life over death will be proclaimed, and the Catholic Church will rejoice in her renewed encounter with her risen Lord.” The new fire of Easter, struck from flint or kindled from the sun by a crystal, “is a symbol of what we celebrate in that vigil. Through His radical love for us, in which the heart of God and the heart of Man touched, Jesus Christ truly took light from heaven and brought it to earth, the light of truth and the fire of love that transform man’s being. Thus, we can now know Who God is and what He is like!”
The Holy Father says, “Dear brothers and sisters, let us prepare to live the holy Triduum intensely in order to share ever more deeply in the mystery of Christ. We are accompanied in this itinerary by the Blessed Virgin, who silently followed her Son, Jesus, to Calvary, taking part with deep sorrow in His sacrifice and thus cooperating in the mystery of redemption and so becoming the mother of all believers (John 19:25-27). Together with her we shall enter the Upper Room, we shall remain at the foot of the cross, and we shall watch in spirit beside our dead Christ, waiting with hope for the dawn of the radiant day of the resurrection!”
An Ordinary Viewpoint
Thoughts For Passiontide - II