Menu Close

Pastors Corner 3.24.2024

Holy Week

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

                 Today we begin the holiest week of the liturgical year; we call it “Holy Week” and its roots go back to the earliest centuries of the Church.  Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion when the Church commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  Even to this day, Christians from around the world travel to Jerusalem to reenact, with the waving of palm branches, Christ’s jubilant procession into the Holy City.  The Passion of Our Lord according to Matthew, Mark or Luke (depending on the year) is read on Palm Sunday.

Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday do not have specific ceremonies associated with the days, but the Gospel passages for those days recall the anointing of Jesus at Bethany and the prediction of his passion.  In this Archdiocese, the Chrism Mass is celebrated on Tuesday of Holy Week.  There the Archbishop blesses the Holy Oils that will be used throughout the year and the priests of the Archdiocese renew the commitments they made on the day of their ordination.  Holy Wednesday is sometimes called “Spy Wednesday” because the Gospel account for that day portrays Judas’ plotting to betray Jesus.

In the evening on Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) the Church begins what is called the Sacred Triduum (Three Days).  Lent officially ends as we enter these final three days leading up to Easter Sunday.  The first celebration of the Triduum is the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening at which the Church celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the New Testament priesthood.  At the Mass, the priest washes the feet of twelve people (meant to symbolize Jesus’ washing the feet of the twelve apostles) in a ritual that is called the Mandatum.  Jesus tells his disciples, “If I, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” 

After the Holy Thursday Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the church, symbolizing Jesus’ departure from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane where he invites his disciples to “watch and pray” with him.

No Mass is celebrated anywhere in the world on Good Friday.  Stations of the Cross may be celebrated that day and the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion is celebrated (most often at 3pm, but here we also have a service at 7pm), where the Passion Narrative according to John is read, prayers of intercession are offered, the wood of the Cross is venerated and Holy Communion is received from hosts reserved from the Mass the evening before.

No Mass is celebrated during the day on Holy Saturday.  It is sometimes called “Black Saturday” because it commemorates the time that Jesus was in the tomb.  After dark on Saturday (understood as the beginning of Sunday in the Jewish calendar tradition), the first celebration of Easter may be celebrated.  This first celebration of the resurrection occurs during the night and is known as the Easter Vigil; it is the “mother of all liturgies.”  It is a long service that is broken down into four sections: the Service of Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Celebration of Baptism and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  It is the most important Mass that the Church celebrates in the entire liturgical year. 

I encourage you to prayerfully participate in these special ceremonies of Holy Week.  They are important to what we hold sacred as Catholics.  The mysteries celebrated during this week are at the heart of what is celebrated at every Mass throughout the year.  Find time to immerse yourself in this most sacred time.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,