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The Start of Holy Week

By EMN Updated: Mar 23, 2024 11:13 pm

Palm Sunday

Introduction: Holy Week, in the Christian church, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, observed with solemnity as a time of devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ. In the Greek and Roman liturgical books, it is called the Great Week because great deeds were done by God during this week. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, a distinct liturgy that begins with a Gospel reading of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem at the entrance of the worship space. Those attending the service receive palms, a reminder of Scripture telling us that people welcomed Jesus by laying down their cloaks and waving palm branches (John 12:13). Palm Sunday is the first time we hear the Lord’s Passion in the liturgical calendar. Pope Francis is scheduled to preside over Mass for Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday or the Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem. The Mass, which will be in St. Peter’s Square at 10 a.m. local time, will kick off with a grand procession of deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals, and laypeople carrying palms. The procession includes olive tree branches, palm fronds, and the large, weaved palms called “parmureli,” all blessed by Pope Francis. Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian communities celebrate Palm Sunday, making the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred time of year for Christians.

Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week: Daily Mass takes place like normal during these three days of Holy Week. Gospel readings during these days include passages from the Gospels of John and Matthew about Judas betraying Jesus, preparing us for the Thursday liturgy commemorating The Last Supper. While some refer to these days as “Holy Monday,” “Holy Tuesday” and “Holy Wednesday,” others simply refers to these days as “Monday of Holy Week,” “Tuesday of Holy Week” and “Wednesday of Holy Week.”

Holy Thursday: Holy Thursday begins the Easter Triduum–the three days leading up to Jesus’ Resurrection. Its formal name is Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which was the first celebration of the Eucharist. Other branches of Christianity refer to this day as Maundy Thursday. This liturgy includes the reception of the Holy Oils, in which the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Holy Chrism are processed through the church, to be used for the rest of the year. These oils are all blessed by the local bishop shortly before the liturgy. Also notable at the Holy Thursday service is the washing of the feet, in which the priest washes the feet of 12 parishioners. Jesus did this to demonstrate to his disciples how they are to serve others through selfless love. Originally, only men were invited to be among the 12 to have their feet washed. A decree from Pope Francis in 2016 opened up the ritual to all. At the end of Mass, consecrated hosts remain on the altar while everything else is stripped away. As incense fills the church, the priest, donning a special garb called a humeral veil, takes the Blessed Sacrament and processes out of the church to a chapel or other area for adoration.

Good Friday: Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, commonly known as Good Friday, is the only day in the entire year in which no Mass is celebrated. It’s a solemn day that calls for fasting and abstinence. Stations of the Cross are popular on Good Friday. The main service on Good Friday features no procession. The Passion is read and the Eucharist (consecrated on Thursday) is distributed. Veneration of the Cross and solemn intercessions–a set of shared prayer intentions offered universally on this day–are other unique elements to the Good Friday service.

Holy Saturday: The Mass on Holy Saturday is the Easter Vigil. “Easter Sunday the Resurrection of the Lord Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter.” This is the most unique and perhaps most important liturgy of the year. The Easter Vigil ends the Triduum and begins Easter celebrations. The service can only begin once the sun has set. Outside the church, a fire lights the Paschal candle, and the flame is shared throughout the church to individual handheld candles. The Liturgy of the Word, which normally includes nine readings, begins in darkness. The readings demonstrate the connection between the Old and New Testaments and how Jesus fulfilled Scripture and achieved salvation for all humanity. The Liturgy of Baptism, which follows the Gospel and homily, marks the culmination of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Catechumens, who have been preparing to enter the Church, are baptised, confirmed, and later receive their first Holy Communion. The Easter Vigil is a joyous, celebratory liturgy, filled with rich songs. Although the services end late at night, churches typically have a reception afterward to continue the celebration. It will begin at different times in different parts of the country (and world), depending on the sunset time.

Easter Sunday: Compared to other Holy Week services, Easter Sunday Masses are most similar to those that occur during Ordinary Time. The festive atmosphere continues from the Easter Vigil, with the worship space decorated with beautiful flowers, especially white lilies. Of course, many parishioners wear special outfits to celebrate the day. Easter, the biggest feast that the Church has, is also among the well-attended services of the year.

Conclusion: The resurrection of Jesus, three days after his death on a cross, is the pinnacle of the Christian faith. That death is not final; that even though you may die you can yet live is Jesus’ most powerful success secret. Many people don’t view their life in the context of eternity. They see their existence as limited to what is experienced through the physical body. Once their body dies, they believe, they die with it. Consequently, for these individuals, the primary mission and purpose in life is the preservation, protection and defence of their body. The length of life, not its height, is the measure of success.

Yet Jesus taught that you are more than your body. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born of the spirit. Once your body dies, your spirit, made in the image and likeness of God, can rise again.

Not only does your body die, eventually returning to dust, but during your lifetime the roles you play and the self-images you create will die also. So will some of your hopes, dreams and desires. Anyone who has never experienced failure has never really tried to reach their full potential. Although you can learn much from failure, the question is not whether you succeed or fail, but whether you can rise again once you do fail. Some of the most successful people in the world have also been great failure at some point in their lives. The secret to their success is after every failure they rose again. Setbacks, defeats do not have to be final. You can ultimately achieve success if you rise again.

Rev. Fr. C. Joseph,

 Counsellor-St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous) Jakhama,

By EMN Updated: Mar 23, 2024 11:13:36 pm
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