Friday, Apr. 03, 2020
We embark on our spiritual journey with Christ this Holy Week and Easter in a special time of great tribulation and uncertainties due to the coronavirus pandemic. But relying on the love and mercy of God, we lift our hearts in prayer with deep faith and gratitude as we celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Christ – his Passion, death and resurrection.
We enter into the most important mysteries of our faith that mark our salvation through Christ. The Church invites and challenges us to focus and unite our hearts on Christ’s selfless and sacrificial offering to understand the costly price he paid for our sins, and which brought about our redemption and salvation.
Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday or Passiontide. Palms are blessed, usually outside or at the main entrance of the church, and used in procession at the beginning of the Holy Mass to commemorate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The season of Lent ends on Holy Thursday as the Church begins to celebrate the Triduum, the three holy days in which we relive Christ’s Paschal Mystery – his suffering, death and resurrection. It is an invitation for us to unite ourselves to Christ, to die to ourselves in order to be born again. The three days are liturgically one celebration of the unfolding unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. These are special days set apart for prayer, reflection and penance by going to Confession.
Earlier in the day, the Chrism Mass is celebrated. Here the oils used for Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and for the Anointing of the Sick are blessed or consecrated. During the Mass, the clergy, women and men in religious and consecrated life, and the laity renew their priestly commitment and baptismal vows before the Ordinary. It signifies the vibrant faith, and the unity and solidarity of the community gathered around their bishop mindful of their commitment, collaboration and support for the mission of the Church.
We commemorate Jesus’ Passion and death on Good Friday, focusing on Christ’s selfless sacrifice, unconditional love for us and total obedience and surrender to his Father’s will. He freely bore the pain and sufferings inflicted on him and chose to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and for our salvation. Christ transformed his suffering and death to defeat sin and evil. By his wounds, we were healed and by his death, we gain eternal life. Good Friday is a special day of quiet and prayerful mourning and the only time of the year when the Eucharist is not celebrated.
Christians are called to live Holy Saturday as a day of silence, “like it was that very day, which was the day of God’s silence,” Pope Francis said last year. The joyful songs of the Easter Vigil, the Exultet and the Great Alleluia proclaim Christ’s victory over sin and death. Easter actually begins a few hours before the clock strikes midnight on Sunday at Saturday’s Vigil service, which is traditionally held after sunset.
The Easter Vigil rites begin with the priest and the faithful gathering outside the darkened church. The rites begin with blessing of the fire and lighting of the Paschal candle carried in procession to symbolize Christ as the Light of the world, followed by the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection with the Exultet or song of praise. We, too, are called to be lights to the world and so we light candles from the Paschal candle. During the rites there are additional readings from the Old Testament to help us remember all the incredible things that the Lord did for our ancestors in the faith.
Through this “remembering” we are made present to the religious events of our ancestors and reminded that God never abandons His Holy People. The blessing of the water and profession of our faith are celebrated with the Rites of Christian Initiations to welcome the new members into full communion with the Catholic Church.
We celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ not as some event in the past but as the very heart and foundation of our Christian faith and joy. Christ’s resurrection is celebrated on Easter and every Sunday of the year. It is for this reason we call Sunday the “Lord’s Day.” God has blessed us with a Savior who died for our sins and rose from the dead to give us new life.
As believers and followers of Christ, we are Easter people, called to live and proclaim the Gospel that Jesus has died, has risen and will come again. Pope Francis exhorts us “to bring the joy of the Gospel to the world by reflecting the Risen Lord in us, by living joyful lives filled with love and compassion, and with an attitude that is positive and forward looking.”