Today we enter into Holy Week, the most sacred and solemn week of the Church’s liturgical year. Beginning with Palm Sunday and culminating with the great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday night, this week focuses on the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem to complete his mission as Messiah. The crowds acclaim him with shouts of “Hosanna,” only to be turned into shouts of “Crucify him!” five days later. Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on an ass which is the ultimate sign of his humility. It is this virtue that we, as his disciples are called to emulate in our own lives. The entire Season of Lent has been calling us to die to pride and live as humble servants of the Lord.
Holy Thursday commemorates three very important things. First, the institution of the ordained Priesthood. Jesus, the High Priest, confers on his apostles a share in his Priesthood and this has been handed down from generation to generation, to the present age. The ordained priesthood, distinct from the royal priesthood of the baptized, was given to the Church so that priests could, in the person of Christ, offer sacrifice to the Father on behalf of the People of God. Without the ordained priesthood, there would be no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there would be no Church.
The second thing we commemorate on this evening is the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the greatest gift the world has ever been given. Jesus, faithful to his promise “I am with you always until the end of the age,” makes himself, through the ministry of his priests, present among us until the end of time in the Sacrament of the Altar. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Heart of Christ, revealing to us his unconditional, sacrificial love, a love that was willing to die rather than stop loving. As St. Padre Pio said, “If we only understood what the Eucharist is we would be willing to die for it!”
The third thing we commemorate is the mandate given to all the baptized to serve one another in imitation of Christ by washing one another’s feet. Jesus reminds us that, as his disciples we are called to serve, not to be served. He reminded us that the greatest among us is the one who serves others with humility. If our celebration of the Eucharist is going to be authentic, then we must become what we eat and drink at the Table of the Lamb, the bread broken and the chalice poured out in serving others.
Good Friday finds us commemorating the Passion of Christ as he journeys to Calvary for our salvation. The liturgy of the day is very simple and somber as we recall Jesus’ fidelity to the Will of the Father so that we might be set free from sin and death. This is the only day of the liturgical year when Mass is not celebrated.
Holy Saturday finds us waiting at the tomb. In the darkness of the night the Church gathers for the Vigil of Easter. The new fire will be lit and blessed. The Paschal Candle will be carried into the liturgical assembly as the Light of Christ spreads throughout the entire church. The Easter Praises will be sung, announcing the truth, Christ is risen! We will hear the ancient story of our salvation from the beginning of creation to the Resurrection. Death does not have the final word, life does! Alleluia is our song and will be sung again for the first time since the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. On this holy night we will celebrate with our catechumens their entry into the new life of Christ through the waters of baptism. They will be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and be one with us for the first time at the Table of the Lord.
The Easter Vigil is filled with wonder, awe, thanksgiving and praise for how the Risen Lord is working in and among us. It is a night like no other, a night to remember!
I invite you to join us for these celebrations. Please see the weekly schedule for the times of the liturgies. May these final days of Lent find us “Coming out of the cold, dark tomb into the Light of Easter!”
— Fr. Dennis, April 14, 2019