Holy Week is the week that changed the world. We begin this most sacred of weeks with the celebration of Palm Sunday and the Proclamation of the Passion of our Lord. This day inaugurates Holy Week with the triumphal entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem.
We relive this historic event of salvation history at Mass with a procession into the church and a solemn blessing of palm branches. St. Augustine writes: "The palm leaves symbolize homage, for they stand for victory. Our Lord is on the point of conquering by dying on the cross. Under the sign of the cross, he is about to triumph over the devil, the prince of death."
On Monday of Holy Week, Bishop Tobin celebrates the Chrism Mass, a Mass in which the oil of the sick, used in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and the oil of catechumens, used in preparation for the Sacrament of Baptism, are blessed. Also the sacred Chrism, used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, is consecrated. At this Annual Mass, all priests of the diocese renew their priestly promises and their pledge to remain in communion with the bishop, our Chief Shepherd and head of the Church of Providence. The Chrism Mass reminds us that we are anointed at our baptism and that, through the ordained men He chooses, Christ continues the ministry of his one High Priesthood, a ministry of word and sacrament.
On Holy Tuesday we move ever closer to Jesus’ Passion as the liturgy focuses on Jesus announcing Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. On Spy Wednesday, the traditional name for the day before Jesus is betrayed, Judas visits the chief priests of the Temple promising to betray Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. This day is traditionally called “Spy Wednesday” in reference to the “spy” or “traitor,” Judas.
Holy Thursday marks the end of the holy season of Lent and the beginning of the most sacred time in our liturgical year: the Paschal Triduum. These three days are one unit wherein the greatest mysteries of our redemption are celebrated. On Holy Thursday we gather in the evening to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. We celebrate the institution of the ordained priesthood and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Holy Thursday is also called “Maundy Thursday” in reference to the “mandatum,” which is Jesus’ commandment to love one another. It is symbolized by his washing of the feet of the apostles and the gesture is reenacted by the parish priests with the washing of feet of parishioners. On this holy night, the Eucharist is carried in procession to the altar of repose. There we adore Christ truly present in the Eucharist and keep watch with him as did the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane.
On Good Friday we fix our gaze on the Cross. There is no celebration of Mass on this most somber day in the Church’s calendar. In the solemn ceremonies of Good Friday — the adoration and veneration of the Cross, the reading of the Passion and the reception of Holy Communion — we not only behold the wood of the Cross, but we also unite ourselves and our crosses to our Savior.
Holy Saturday is a holy day of “waiting,” when Jesus is said to have “descended into the dead” to bring the just souls who died before his sacrifice on the cross to the glories of heaven. We wait in prayer until the Easter Vigil, which begins in the dark and ends in the light of Christ’s resurrection. It is a solemn and beautiful liturgy as those coming into the Catholic faith are baptized, recieved and confirmed. The Alleluia and the singing of the Gloria return to the liturgy, and church bells that have been silent ring joyfully.
St. Augustine calls the Easter Vigil, the “Mother of all Vigils.” This year at OLM we baptize one adult, receive a non-Catholic into the Church and confirm several other adults. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in which he conquered death itself and opened the gates of Heaven to us. And so we proclaim with great joy on Easter : “The Lord is Risen. He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Please join us this week for the celebration of Holy Week 2018. Holy Week is indeed the week that changed the world, so let it change your world this year! Do good. Be well. A Blessed Holy Week to you all!