Holy Week is the most important week in the Catholic Church’s year. It starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. It includes the last days of Lent and the Easter Triduum, the great three days from which the heart of the Christian faith is celebrated. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday prepare us for the greatest feast of the Church’s calendar, Easter, Jesus’ Resurrection, giving all the gift of eternal life.
Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) is the first day of Holy Week. Palm Sunday is the Commemoration of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Entrance into Jerusalem for His Passion and Death. The crowd spread palm branches on the ground and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David. The palms are blessed. The Gospel is proclaimed, and there is a procession with priest and people carrying palms in Church. The Liturgy of the Word includes the Passion Reading.
The first day of the Easter Triduum is Holy Thursday. The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. The Sacraments of Holy Orders and the Eucharist were instituted by Christ on Holy Thursday. We give thanks for Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection. One theme is Jesus leaving the memorial of His love through the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. Another theme is service. We remember and emulate Jesus’ example of washing the disciples’ feet. The priest washes the feet of 12 people. At the end of the Mass, there is a Solemn Procession with the Blessed Sacrament in Church. The Blessed Sacrament is placed in the Tabernacle of Reposition for Adoration until the Good Friday Service. The altar is stripped and crosses are covered. The main Tabernacle remains empty until Easter Vigil.
The second day of the Easter Triduum is Good Friday. This is the only day in the Church’s calendar where there is no celebration of the Eucharist, because the emphasis is on the Lord’s Passion and Death as well as the Veneration of the Cross. The Liturgy begins with the priest prostrated on the ground and faithful kneeling in silence. The Liturgy of the Word and the Passion according to John are proclaimed. The General Intercessions are followed by the Veneration of the Cross, where the cross is carried in Procession, and unveiled at the altar. Clergy and faithful approach the Cross, making an appropriate sign of reverence such as kissing the Cross. Jesus through His Death on the Cross redeemed all of humanity, opening the gates of heaven. Jesus restores humanity to the proper communion with God, that was damaged by Adam and Eve’s Original Sin. “O necessary sin of Adam which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” (Exultet) Then the altar is covered with a simple cloth and corporal, and the priest or deacon, brings the Blessed Sacrament, from the Tabernacle of Reposition to the altar. All stand in silence. The Our Father is prayed with the Communion Rite. Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful from the Body of Christ consecrated on Holy Thursday.
The third day of the Easter Triduum is Holy Saturday. The Easter Vigil is the holiest night of the year when Christ passed from death to life. The faithful pray in vigil and anticipation of Jesus’ Glorious Resurrection. The Easter Vigil Mass has four parts: the Service of the Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Sacraments of Initiation and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Church is dark. The Service of the Light contains the Blessing of the Fire, the Lighting of the Paschal (Easter) Candle, which is the symbol of the Risen Lord. All light their small candles from the Easter Candle and proceed in Procession with the Easter Candle to the sanctuary. The Easter Proclamation is sung. The second part is the Liturgy of the Word, recalling God’s saving acts for humanity in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, culminating with the Gospel Reading of the Jesus’ Resurrection. The third part is the Liturgy of the Sacraments of Initiation, which contains the Litany of the Saints, the Blessing of the Baptismal Water, the Rite of Baptism, the Renewal of Baptismal Promises and the Sprinkling of Holy Water. The fourth part is the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The Paschal Mystery is the connection between the Last Supper(Holy Thursday), Jesus’ Suffering and Death on the Cross(Good Friday) and His Resurrection(Easter Sunday.) Jesus’ Offering of His Body and Blood at the Last Supper(Jesus said this is my body and blood that will be given up for you) is the anticipation of His Death on the Cross, God’s supreme act of Love to save humanity from sin and death on Good Friday. Jesus sacrifices Himself freely by doing God’s will. Pope Benedict XVI expressed this connection in Journey to Easter. “The death without the act of love of the Supper would be empty, without meaning. The Supper without the actual realization of the death it anticipated would be a gesture without reality.” Supper and Cross together are the only source of the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from this oneness of Supper and Cross. However, Supper and Cross and Jesus’ Resurrection give all hope. Jesus predicted He would rise on the third day. (Mt 16:21).Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His friends and disciples. (Mt 28: 5-10 & Mk 16: 1-13) Jesus’ Resurrection is the crowing truth of our faith and the confirmation of all of Christ’s teachings.(1Cor. 15:14) Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter Sunday gives all people the gift of eternal life with God, forever in heaven. Salvation is God’s gift to all of humanity, the goal of human existence, which gives life meaning.
Every Sunday Mass is a little Easter. Every Eucharist, we remember, in gratitude, the Last Supper(Holy Thursday), Jesus’ Passion and Death (Good Friday) and Jesus’ Resurrection (Easter Sunday). The Eucharist is the sacrament of God’s love for humanity through the memorial of Jesus’
Paschal Mystery that saves all from sin and death. God’s love redeems humanity. The Church gives thanks (Eucharist means thanksgiving) by following Jesus’ command, “do this in memory of me”. Jesus is present in the Body and Blood of Christ.
The best way to meditate, with gratitude to God for the great events that led to our salvation, is to participate wholeheartedly in these sacred mysteries in our parish.
A blessed Easter to our St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic school community. Opening our hearts to our Saviour, the Risen Lord Jesus, who loves us, will bring us joy and peace.