A Guide To Understanding Holy Week

Holy Week is the most important week in the Church year! It is a time when we celebrate in a special way the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember his actions, reflect on his messages, and recommit to living as his disciples in the world today.

This guide will help you understand and celebrate Holy Week more fully. Keep this guide in a place where you will see it during the week - perhaps on the dining room table.

·                  Review the guide before you go to church for the Holy Week liturgies and consider taking the Guide with you as your "personal passport" for the celebration. Watch to see how we celebrate these im­portant rituals, notice the special symbol used in the liturgy and listen for the key message in the scriptures.

·                  Share the Holy Week highlights described here with your family and friends. In the car or at the dinner table, talk about what you see, hear and how these events and symbols make your feel.

The final week of Lent, Holy Week, begins with Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord and concludes with the Triduum.

"Triduum” comes from two Latin words - tres and dies - that mean "a space of three days," But since we have four days with special names - Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday - the "three" may be confusing to some. They are however, one liturgical celebration.

The confusion is cleared up when we understand how the days are reckoned. On all high festival days the Church counts a day in the same way as Jews count days and festivals: that is, from sundown to sundown. Thus the Triduum consists of three twenty-four periods that stretch over four calendar days.

Therefore, the Easter Triduum begins at sundown on Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord's Supper, continues with Good Friday and concludes with Easter evening prayer at sundown on Easter Sunday: its high point is the celebration of the Easter Vigil.

During the Triduum we celebrate the core mystery of our Christian faith: we ritualize Jesus' transition from life to death to risen life, and our own participation in that timeless mystery.

If is so easy this time of year to celebrate these days as a historical commemoration. But we are doing for more than recalling historical facts. What Jesus did for us has consequences for all people at all times. His life, death, and resurrection happened to him, but they also happen to all of us who claim to be his follow­ers These days, then, are a reminder and celebration of who we ourselves are and what our own lives are about.

As we celebrate the mystery of Jesus' passing, we actually celebrate the same passing over in our own lives. Jesus' self-sacrifice opened the way for us to share in new life. But this does require our own cooperation in God's divine plan of salvation. We must pass over our lives into God's hands and imitate the self-giving of God's Son. This is the way to life. "It is the Passover of the lord".

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

 

Jesus was welcomed by the people with cheers and palms - a symbol of victory and sign that "all is well". Palm-bearing date trees were valued for their dignity, beauty and shade and were used at special occasions to welcome heroes and royalty.

No greater love was shown us than Jesus' love for his Father and us, for he gave his life because of his faithfulness to that love. One of Jesus' closest disciples was Peter. Peter loved Jesus, but he didn't always understand what real love required. How very much like Peter we all are! Peter failed Jesus, but Jesus' love for Peter restored their relationship and empowered Peter to learn to love. That should give us all hope.

As you listen to the Passion on this day, place yourself in the story. What does it feel like to be part of the crowd or to be a disciple? What does it feel like to be in Jesus' place during the passion? What would you do if you were Jesus' best friend?

Lent ends with the Triduum:, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Liturgies.

  Holy Thursday
Mass of the Lord's Supper

Tonight's first reading describes the Passover meal. In the second reading, the institution of Eucharist is shared, "this is my Body, which is for you." In the Gospel, Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. This is the service and love of Jesus, which we are asked to share in our lives.

We are reminded tonight that God always nourishes his people. Jesus fed his followers by multiplying loaves and fishes. Then he fed his apostles at the Last Supper. The good news is that God hasn't stopped nourishing us. We can feast on his Word and on the Eucharist. They are great sources of spiritual energy, great in times of need and excellent for our daily diet. Don't starve yourself, but feed daily on God's gifts.

On Holy Thursday, we experience the washing of the feet: Put yourself in the place of the foot-washer: How do you feel washing the feet of others? Put yourself in the place of the disciples: How does it feel to have someone, who means so much to you, wash your feet?

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

The first and second readings, from Isaiah and Paul's letter to the Hebrews, describe the mystery of the cross - the Paschal Mystery - suffering turned into victory. The gospel is the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The word passion can also mean strong feelings of love. Jesus' passion is the time from the Last Supper to his death on the cross, during which he shows his great love for us.

Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him. When that happened Jesus looked at him, probably with pity and certainly with love. God's love and mercy cannot save us from our own folly and its consequences: after all, Peter had to live with his denial of Jesus. That is why he wept.

The veneration of the cross is a time when a large cross is brought forward. We touch or kiss the cross to show our love and thankfulness for God's love.

If you stood at the cross on which Jesus hung, what would you say to him? How does it feel to touch or kiss the cross? What does this mean to you?

Easter Vigil
Holy Saturday

The blessing of the Easter fire begins this celebration. From that fire, the Paschal Candle is lit. After the readings, the liturgy of. Baptism begins. While the new members of the community are baptized, the whole community joins in renewing our promises and as the whole community is sprinkled with water we, remember our baptism

The Paschal candle symbolizes Jesus as light of the world. It is from this candle that baptism candles are lit throughout the year, that we celebrate the life of faith of the newly departed and that we celebrate the commitment of faith in the sacrament of Confirmation. It stands as a symbol of our faith and our desire to be light to the world as Jesus is for us.

Jesus always speaks about hope. A hope that. is not based on chances that things will get better---or at least not any worse; His hope is built upon the promise that, whatever happens, God will stay with us at all times, in all places. God is the God of Life!

How would you feel if you were being baptized tonight? What does it mean for you to celebrate the joy of Jesus’ resurrection?

The Triduum concludes with the Easter Sunday celebrations of the Resurrection.
We continue this celebration for the next seven weeks of the Easter Season
concluding with Pentecost.
 

Have a Blessed Holy Week!