Holy Week is the heart of the whole liturgical year. We accompany Jesus on His journey to Calvary and to the Resurrection. Jesus’ earthly journey reached its crowning moment when He went up to Jerusalem to suffer and die for us.
Pope Francis teaches the following: In Holy Week we live the crowning moment of this journey, of this plan of love that runs through the entire history of the relations between God and humanity. Jesus enters Jerusalem to take his last step with which he sums up the whole of his existence. He gives himself without reserve, he keeps nothing for himself, not even life.
How will we spend this Holy Week? Will it truly be “holy” or will it be no different from other weeks of the year? How can we live Holy Week? Our Holy Father says that living Holy Week means entering more deeply into the logic of God, into the logic of the Cross, which is not primarily that of suffering and death, but rather that of love and the gift of self which brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel.
The liturgies of Holy Week help us to enter more deeply into the logic of God, the logic of the Cross, the logic of the Gospel. This is especially true of the liturgies of the Easter Triduum which begins with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper and ends with Vespers on Easter Sunday. In these liturgies, we celebrate the greatest mysteries of the redemption. Saint Augustine called this time the triduum of the crucified, buried and risen.
I invite and encourage you to attend the Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, if you are able. At this Mass, we remember the Last Supper. We give thanks for the great gift of the Holy Eucharist. The Son of God offers Himself to us. He gives us His Body and Blood to be with us always. On this night when Jesus was betrayed, Jesus showed his love for us by giving us the Eucharist and instituting the priesthood.
At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the priest washes the feet of twelve people, recalling Jesus’ washing the feet of the Twelve Apostles. This represents the service and charity of Christ. We remember the new commandment of Jesus, that we love one another as He has loved us.
I look forward to celebrating the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:30 PM at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral this year. Each year, I ask our seminarians to join me at this Mass. I hope we have a full cathedral this year.
At the end of the Holy Thursday Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is transferred in a procession to a place of repose. There people can pray in adoration throughout the rest of the evening. I always try to read the Gospel account of the Agony in the Garden on Holy Thursday night. It is good to meditate on this sorrowful mystery, reflecting on our Lord’s deep human distress as He faced a violent death, yet with absolute trust, embraced His Father’s will with love.
On Good Friday, we commemorate the Passion and Death of the Lord. It is the only day of the year when Mass is not celebrated. It is a day of fast and abstinence.
I invite all to attend the liturgy of the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, held in the afternoon. I will be celebrating the liturgy this year at 1:00 PM at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. In this solemn liturgy, we hear Saint John’s account of the Passion of Jesus. Solemn Intercessions are prayed, followed by the solemn Adoration of the Holy Cross. Holy Communion, consecrated at the Mass on Holy Thursday, is distributed. The liturgy ends in silence.
Good Friday is a solemn day of remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death. It is a day when we encounter in a powerful way “the logic of God: the logic of the Cross, the logic of Love.” We can feel the emotion of Jesus dying for us and giving Himself for us. It is also a day to realize that following Him means giving of ourselves in love of others, especially those who are forgotten, those in need of our love and compassion. I think it is especially appropriate that we take up a collection on Good Friday for the works of the Church in the Holy Land, to assist our suffering brothers and sisters in the very land where our Lord suffered and died for us.
Holy Saturday should be a quiet day. That’s not easy in our culture today. In the Roman Missal we read: On Holy Saturday, the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and Death and on his Descent into Hell, and awaiting his Resurrection.
The Easter Vigil is “the greatest and most noble of all solemnities.” It must take place after nightfall on Holy Saturday. Each year I celebrate the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This year, it begins at 9:00 PM.
The Easter Vigil has four parts: the Lucernarium (the blessing of the Easter fire and Lighting of the Paschal Candle); the Liturgy of the Word; the Baptismal Liturgy; and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. There are many readings at the Easter Vigil, from Genesis to the Gospel. The Church meditates upon the history of salvation, from Creation to the Redemption. On this holy night, we come to the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan with the Resurrection of His Son. It is the night when our catechumens are reborn in Christ through Baptism, strengthened by the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and fed with the Bread of Heaven, the Holy Eucharist.
The Easter Triduum continues on Easter Sunday when Mass is celebrated with great solemnity. We renew our baptismal promises at Mass on Easter Sunday. The water blessed at the Easter Vigil is sprinkled upon us, reminding us of our Baptism when we received the new life of the Risen Christ.
Let us live Holy Week well this year! It is a time of grace which the Lord gives us to draw closer to Him, to walk in His footsteps, and to bring the light of His love to the world!
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