“Let us run to accompany Him as He hastens toward His passion, and imitate those who met Him then, not by covering His path with garments, olive branches or palms but . . . by trying to live as He would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at His coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us” (St. Andrew of Crete).
We are approaching the final days of Lent. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, we follow Christ’s final days as He enters Jerusalem, celebrates the Passover with His disciples, endures the betrayal of Judas, embraces the cross, and is laid to rest in the tomb. Each year Holy Week invites us to enter more deeply into these mysteries by being alert to the actions that unfold, listening attentively to the words spoken, savoring in silence the events of the week, and accepting the graces offered to us.
Where will the journey of Holy Week take us? On Palm Sunday, we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. We know this triumph is momentary, however. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem where triumph is replaced by rejection. As we accept the palm branches, we join the procession to Jerusalem praying for the grace to walk faithfully with Jesus throughout the week.
On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week, the first reading at Mass is from the prophet Isaiah. When we listen to these “Suffering Servant” songs, we think of Jesus. He was the faithful servant who suffered for others. “Yes, it was our infirmities he bore, our sufferings he endured . . . upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:4-5). The suffering servant songs set the tone for what is to come as we continue to walk with Christ during His final days and hours.
On Holy Thursday, we are in the upper room to celebrate the Passover. Jesus’ departures from the Jewish ritual reveal the characteristics of the new covenant. He washes the disciples’ feet and tells them to follow His example. He takes bread and wine and changes it into His Body and Blood, instructing the apostles, “Do this in memory of me,” thus assuring that His saving action is made present for all generations. We commemorate so much on Holy Thursday: the Mass, the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ given to us as food for our journey, and the priesthood. Prayerful silence before these mysteries allows us to savor their meaning and beauty.
Continuing our journey, we arrive at Good Friday. The day on which Christ died is for us a “good day.” It is the day of our salvation. We venerate the cross, embracing the wood upon which Christ died and redeemed the world. We stand beneath the cross and look at Christ, disfigured and suffering. We try to grasp the mystery of His love for us. We hear His last words, “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:33) and “Father into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). We pray our hearts will be seized by God’s grace to accept the mystery of the Cross as it plays out in our lives.
Holy Saturday is a quiet day. “Something strange is happening — there is great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep” (Office of Readings, Holy Saturday). We know that Good Friday is not the end of the story, but the Church gives us a day to contemplate Christ’s death and wait in expectation for the end of the journey. We keep watch for the rising sun of a new day and the unbelievably good news that the eternal Son of the Father will rise on the third day. Holy Saturday concludes with the celebration of the Easter Vigil welcoming our catechumens to the reception of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist and our candidates to full incorporation into the Church.
“With his entry into Jerusalem, Christ begins his journey of love and sorrow, which is the cross. Look to him with renewed and zealous faith. Follow Him! He does not promise illusory happiness; on the contrary . . . he invites you to follow his demanding example, making his exacting choices your own” (St. John Paul II). I encourage you to journey through Holy Week by attending Mass and participating in the liturgy each day during the sacred triduum. If possible, do this as a family. The liturgy is our greatest source of grace and the place where we are taught and experience the wonderful mysteries of our faith.
Be assured that during Holy Week I will pray for you and all those you hold dear. By our thoughtful and prayerful walk with Christ through the events of this week may our hearts and minds be open to the joys and blessings of Easter.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.