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Reflection: Holy Week – The Most Sacred Week of the Year Mar 15, 2024

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Fr Gerard Lai
Fr Gerard Lai

Holy Week – The Most Sacred Week of the Year

To say something is “Holy” means to be “set apart” for a specific and sacred purpose. As an analytical thinker and having a creative mind, I always find myself using my imagination to help me enter into Holy Week, the most sacred week in the liturgical year in Christianity. I hope this reflection can help provide you with an overview of Holy Week so that it may deepen you experience and lead you into continued encounter with Jesus Christ.

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and concludes at the end of the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.

Palm Sunday recalls Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem where crowds praised Jesus and waved palm branches, an action usually reserved for royalty. Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem like a king except he is seated on a donkey, rather than a horse, symbolising peace. The Passion narrative will be read at Mass recounting the beginning of Jesus’ suffering. It is also interesting to note that the blessed palms from this Mass are burnt down to make the following year’s ashes for Ash Wednesday.

The readings at Mass on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday describe the events leading up to Jesus’ Passion. Monday retells the anointing of Jesus’ feet with costly fragrant ointment, an action foretelling the anointing of Jesus’ body at his burial. Tuesday recites Jesus’ prediction of his own death and Wednesday recounts Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum—from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

Holy Thursday commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, where Jesus has the last supper with his closest companions. He takes the bread and the wine and says, “this is my body, this is my blood, do this in memory of me.” At this liturgy, Jesus the Son of God who is a revered rabbi and a divine miracle worker takes the position of a lowly servant and washes his disciples’ feet. Jesus gives the mandate for them to wash the feet of others just as he has done, hence the name Maundy Thursday.

Good Friday is a solemn day recalling Jesus’ gruesome death. It is “good” because willingly suffered for us. He was the scapegoat, the sacrificial lamb killed once and for all for atonement of our sins. We venerate the cross in thanksgiving for the sacrifice and example Jesus gave us. Gaze at a crucifix today for a short while and let Jesus speak to you.

On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his passion and death and his descent into hell (to preach the Good News to the souls there), and awaiting his resurrection. The altar stands bare, and the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist until the solemn Vigil of the night, when the rejoicing of Easter begins, with such abundance that it overflows into the next fifty days.

Easter Vigil is the mother of all vigils. So of course, it is supposed to be grand and splendid. The Church begins in darkness and the Paschal Candle is lit and its flame shared to all. An Exultet is sung to recount God’s saving work throughout all of history. There are many readings recounting the wonderous works of God and in some churches, candidates may receive Baptism or Confirmation at this time. Alleluia, Rejoice! Jesus is Risen! Take some time to reflect over your 40-day pilgrimage of lent and notice the ways you may have grown and matured over this time.

As Holy Week draws near, I pray this reflection may help you enter into a deeper into relationship with Jesus through the Liturgy.

 

God bless,

Fr. Gerard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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