Today we enter into the holiest week of the Church’s liturgical year as we celebrate the Paschal Mystery, that being, the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It can be a very emotional week as we reflect on the immense love God has for us, as revealed in the death of his Son.
Holy Week begins on a high note with the celebration of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. We jubilantly commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem. On that day the crowds acclaimed him as Messiah and King with shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord!” Less than a week later their cries of exultation would turn into cries of condemnation.
Tuesday of Holy Week will find the Church of Milwaukee gathering at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to celebrate the Chrism Mass. It is a powerful sight as the priests of the archdiocese gather around the archbishop to show the oneness of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. With the archbishop leading those gathered, he along with the auxiliary bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated religious, and lay faithful, publicly renew their commitment to Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
During this celebration the holy oils are blessed and consecrated at the Mother Church of the archdiocese and then flow out to all the parishes in the archdiocese for use during the upcoming year. The oils are the Oil of the Catechumens, which is used to anoint adults who are preparing for baptism; the Oil of the Sick, which is used to anoint those who suffer either physically, emotionally, or spiritually; and the Sacred Chrism, which is used to anoint in Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and the Dedication of Churches. All of these oils remind us of our mission, that as disciples of Christ we are set apart for a sacred purpose.
Holy Thursday commemorates three things: the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the institution of the ordained priesthood, and the common call of all disciples to serve as Christ served. This call to serving in his Name is emphasized by the ritual of the washing of feet which takes place during the liturgy. At the end of the liturgy the Blessed Sacrament is transferred in procession to a place of reposition and people are invited to spend time in prayer with the Eucharistic Lord. This is reminiscent of Jesus and his disciples going out into the garden after the Last Supper to pray.
Good Friday finds us commemorating the Passion of the Lord. This is the only day of the liturgical year that Mass is not celebrated. The liturgy of the day is composed of the Liturgy of the Word, the General Intercessions, Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion. It is a day when the Church reflects on the unconditional, sacrificial love of God as manifested to us in the Son. To help us understand this more fully, it is a day of both fast and abstinence.
Holy Saturday finds us at the tomb keeping vigil. After sundown we celebrate the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night. We begin with the blessing of the new fire, lighting of the Paschal Candle, from which the candles of those present are lit as the Light of Christ scatters the darkness, followed by the singing of the Easter Praises. We then here the ancient story of our salvation beginning with creation and reaching its culmination in the proclamation of the Resurrection of the Lord. The Easter water is blessed, Baptisms are celebrated and new members received into the Church. Everyone present renews the promises of baptism and are sprinkled with the newly blessed water. It is a night like no other and it is rightly called the Mother of all Vigils in the life of the Church.
I invite you to set aside the days of Holy Week and participate in these beautiful and powerful liturgies. The Chrism Mass on March 27 is celebrated at 7:30 p.m. at the Cathedral. Our Holy Thursday, Mass begins at 7:00 PM. The Good Friday Liturgy is at 1:30 p.m. and the Easter Vigil commences at 8:00 p.m.
May these final days of Lent continue to find us bearing rich fruit for the Kingdom of God as we change our hearts. May Easter find us joyfully proclaiming our identity as the People of the Resurrection and Alleluia is our song!
- Fr. Dennis, March 25, 2018