Welcome to the Greatest Time Of Our Lives

Celebrating Palm Sunday

From Our Associate Pastor

PALM SUNDAY As we start Holy Week with Palm Sunday, we see a dramatic shift in tone: we turn from the triumphant entry into Jerusalem towards the Cross. Holy Week is about Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection; and that means that Holy Week is about God’s deep love for humanity. We are not strangers, but “family” to God: it was for us – us! – that Christ submitted to the Cross. The paradoxes and juxtapositions of today – celebration and sorrow, life and death, loss and gain – foreshadow the great mysteries that the Sacred Paschal Triduum remembers, celebrates, and evokes.

(En Español)

MONDAY, TUESDAY, AND WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK During these days of Holy Week, the Church continues to celebrate the salvation “accomplished by Christ in the last days of his life on earth.” The Gospel readings for these days continue to focus on the Passion of Christ. We sense the gathering of the forces of darkness around Christ during his last days on earth. These Gospel readings are paired with three great oracles of the Suffering Servant from Isaiah.

On the evening of Holy Thursday, Lent comes to an end and the Church enters into the Sacred Paschal Triduum with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This evening, the holy oils (Oil of the Sick, of the Catechumens, and Sacred Chrism) for the year that have been blessed by the bishop are brought forward. At this Mass, the Gloria returns after we have not sung it for the six long weeks of Lent. The first reading from Exodus recalls the institution of the Passover meal. On the eve of their liberation from slavery, God asks the people to sacrifice a lamb and share a ritual meal with community, family, and neighbors. The first words of the Gospel – “Before the feast of the Passover” – place us in the context of the Jewish feast. The new Passover is Christ’s Passion, his journey from death to life. Following the homily, the ritual action of the Washing of Feet (often referred to as the “Mandatum,” from the Latin mandatum novum, “new commandment”) takes place. This reminds us that the Eucharist is a call to serve others, and the community that celebrates Eucharist is called to mutual love. We ponder Jesus’s own question after washing his disciples’ feet: “Do you realize what I have done for you?”

The Holy Thursday Mass concludes with a solemn procession, led by the priest celebrant carrying the ciborium with the consecrated hosts to the altar of repose, where it will remain for solemn adoration until later that night.

On this solemn day of fasting and prayer, the Church gathers to honor the death of Christ in the hope of resurrection. On this day, we begin the Paschal fast, the most ancient Christian fast. We fast so that we can come to the celebration of Easter Vigil physically and spiritually hungry, longing to be filled with the banquet of good things Christ has prepared. On Good Friday there is no Mass. The service begins with the priest and the deacon entering in silence and ends the same way. This reminds us that today is a continuation of one long Triduum liturgy that started on Holy Thursday and will conclude on Easter Vigil. Following the Solemn Intercessions, we move into the Adoration of the Holy Cross and then Communion.

This night’s Vigil is explicitly described as “the greatest and most noble of all solemnities.” It begins with the service of light, gathering around a blazing fire outside that is used to light the Paschal Candle. As we bless the fire we pray that our hearts, our very selves, might be inflamed with God’s glory in the darkness which surrounds us. In the Church, the liturgy begins with the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation. This is the splendid song of praise that the Church offers to Christ on the night of his rising. This great poem, a rhapsody in the best sense of the word, urges us to rejoice with all creation in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. After the readings, we move into the Baptismal Liturgy, where we will baptize and confirm our brothers and sisters who will be joining the Catholic Church. The rest of us will renew our baptismal promises together, followed by the sprinkling with the newly blessed baptismal water. This mass concludes the Holy Week. The blessing at the end of this mass asks that those who have gathered to celebrate Easter may be defended from sin, given the gift of immortality, and come one day to celebrate at the liturgy of heaven.

It is my sincere hope that you can join us in the celebration of this holiest week in our Church. As Catholics, this is indeed the greatest time of our lives!

Fr. Sam Nasada, OFM

*Some material used in this reflection was taken from “Guide for Celebrating Holy Week and The Triduum” by Corinna Laughlin, et.al.

(En Español)

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