Holy Week and Easter -
In Holy Week we relive the Paschal Mystery in the Church’s liturgies and in our lives, passing with Jesus from death to new life.
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
We begin Holy Week when we bless the palms, read the Gospel of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and make a solemn procession into church. Jesus is proclaimed as the Messiah who will complete his work in the Holy City. During the following Mass and later in the week we hear the accounts of his Passion from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
The Easter Triduum (Easter Triduum Liturgies in the parish)
This day begins the three great days of Holy Week. The liturgies of each day are not separate from each other but flow together to gather us deeply into the passion, dying and rising of the Lord.
Holy Thursday is often called Maundy Thursday and comes from the Latin ‘mandatum’ meaning the command that Jesus gives us to love one another. This evening Mass is a direct remembrance of Jesus instituting the sacrament of sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, the Mass. After the Gospel there is the ‘washing of feet’ reminding us of Jesus’ action at the Last Supper and how he came to serve us by taking on the burden of sin.
After the Mass the Blessed Sacrament is brought to an Altar of Repose and reserved there for our prayer and devotion.
The day is kept as a fast day and a day of abstinence from meat. It is a solemn and holy day on which we keep the Lord’s passion and death. The Liturgy is started close to three o’clock, the hour of Jesus’ passion. The church and altar are stripped and bare.
The Liturgy begins with the celebrant and servers entering the church in silence and lying prostrate before the altar. Silent prayer is offered in recognition of the magnitude of what Christ has done for us on the cross.
We then listen to St. John’s account of the Passion. It tells of Jesus freely
submitting to all his suffering for our sake. It reminds us too of the evil and hatred of which we are all capable. Just as Jesus died for the whole world, now the Church prays for everyone that the saving power of the cross may be known among the nations.
Priest and people then solemnly venerate the cross. Each approach the crucifix and kiss the wood on which hung the Saviour of the world. It is not to show our sympathy for the dying Jesus, but out of gratitude for his saving help. After the veneration of the cross everyone is invited to receive the Body of the Lord from the reserved Sacrament. Many people will also attend the beautiful Stations of the Cross and walk with our Lord along his way to crucifixion and death.
The Easter Vigil
On Holy Saturday after dark, the Easter Vigil begins with the lighting of a new fire and the Easter Candle. Christ is proclaimed as our light and a beautiful hymn of praise is sung to the God who has ransomed us from darkness, sin and death.
We hear in the readings how God’s plan of salvation was promised to his holy people and has now come to a fulfilment in Jesus rising from the dead. This is the night when adults to be baptised and confirmed profess their faith and are welcomed into the Church. With them we renew and remember the promises of baptism. We then go on to celebrate the Mass with as much reverence, joy and music as we can add for Christ is Risen, Alleluia!
The Season of Easter
A joyful time follows Easter Day and we learn from the liturgy more and more about the significance of Jesus’ gift to us of friendship with God and eternal life. We then move on the celebrate Jesus’ return to the Father at Ascension and fifty days after Easter the great feast of Pentecost. At Pentecost Christ’s Passover is complete in every way with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who is to enlighten and guide us until the end of time.
Fr. Peter Marden
With help from CTS Essentials
A PDF version of this reflection suitable for printing, with details of Easter Triduum Liturgies in the parish, can be found here.