What Does Holy Week Mean For Us?
Easter is almost upon us. How different will Easter look this year? Usually, as Lent draws to a close, we start looking forward to the great feast of Easter. We usually take for granted wonderful liturgical celebrations and family gatherings and have come to expect them.
With the thought of celebrating this Easter isolated from family, friends and the Church, we find ourselves confused, anxious and perhaps even frustrated. However, this enforced isolation is the perfect opportunity for us to use the time praying for ourselves, our loved ones and those around the world affected by COVID-19. It is an opportunity for us to transform our lives and seek new ways to encounter God. It is the perfect time to consider all the good things in our lives, the things we can still be grateful for.
Pope Francis wants us to realise that God’s mercy and grace surround us not just in special times and places but especially during difficult times. Holy Week provides a timely occasion for us to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be surprised by God’s mercy when we least expect it.
Think about what changes you want to see in your life and in the world. Think about the things we often take for granted. What do you miss most while in isolation? What do you find most challenging? What are you still grateful for and what will you no longer take for granted?
Holy Week is the most important week in the Church’s year. It is a time when we celebrate 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.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna (Ps 118)
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It falls on the Sunday before Easter. The central feature of Palm Sunday is the procession of palms. In the Gospels, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with much love, with people throwing palms in front of him as a gesture of great respect. Palm branches used on Palm Sunday symbolise peace and triumph.
The Easter Triduum is especially important for Catholics, these are the three days just before Easter.
Do this in memory of me Luke 22:19
On Holy Thursday, we re-enact the Lord’s Last Supper, which He shared with His apostles on the night He was betrayed and arrested. This is one of the most beautiful liturgies of the entire liturgical year.
During the Mass, the priest washes the feet of twelve parishioners, just as Jesus did. Also, on this night, priests all over the world renew their sacred vows. This is because at the Last Supper, Jesus not only instituted the Eucharist but also the ministerial priesthood.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and Only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
On Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion and death of our Lord, we have the veneration of the Cross. A service is held at 3.00 pm in the afternoon, the hour Jesus is believed to have died. We usually go forward and kiss the Cross in order to show honour and respect for Christ’s sacrifice for our sake. There is no consecration of the Eucharist on this day, and the Communion we receive is from the night before, which has been reserved in the tabernacle.
It is a day of fast and abstinence for Catholics. We can commemorate this day in quiet contemplation of Jesus’ greatest sacrifice for us united with Christians around the world.
On Holy Saturday we keep watch for the expectant rising of Christ. This was the day Jesus was in the tomb. Before this, the gates to heaven were closed and no one could enter because of original sin. Jesus changed all that by dying on the cross for us. He gained eternal salvation for us, and heaven was opened once more.
Additionally, on this night, persons who have spent months in preparation are received through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation into the Church for the first time. It is a joyous occasion.
Easter is the greatest celebration in the Catholic church because it completes Holy Week and ends with the resurrection of Jesus. Easter celebrates the beginning and foundation of Christianity. Easter is thus a symbolic reminder for Catholics that Jesus has overcome death and sin. It signifies the victory of good over evil. Easter is a powerful reminder to us all that trusting in God will draw us up from the depths of despair and that we will overcome these dark days.
This year during Holy Week we are given, albeit imposed on us, the opportunity to clear our schedules of any unnecessary activities and stay home with minimal distractions or unnecessary activities, instead of spending quality time with our immediate family. Our minds and hearts should be fixed on Jesus and what He did for us and continues to do. It is now more necessary than ever to carefully examine the fabric of our lives and to seriously consider the changes that we must bring about in our lives. As Christians, we live in hope, not fear. With God’s mercy and love, we shall overcome, and this too will pass!
With churches around the world closed, services and liturgies will be live-streamed to parishioners. You can check out the following links for more information.
May we all have a blessed and holy Easter, united in prayer, hope and love.