April 1, 2015
By Father William Muench
We made it! All the way through Lent! So, how did you do? Are you a better person?
So, we have arrived at another Holy Week, the holiest week of the year. Each year during Holy Week, we journey with Jesus as we celebrate his Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate our salvation. Jesus came to bring us God’s love and saves us. It will be a painful challenge for him: he will suffer and die for us. Holy Week for us is a special time set aside to celebrate who we are. We are saved and loved. Jesus suffered for this, giving his very life. We mourn the sufferings of Jesus and his inability to teach all those he wanted to reach.
Now – all these years later – we celebrate for we are a loved people, a saved people. God cares about us. Jesus died to demonstrate the Father’s great love for us.
So, you and I, modern day Christians, celebrate Holy Week. We recognize that we are saved. At the Second Vatican Council, the Bishops devised new liturgies for the Sacred Triduum so that we can celebrate these sacred events of our salvation with joy and understanding.
On Holy Thursday, each priest celebrates his priesthood as he celebrates the Blessed Eucharist, a journey in spirit with those, original apostles, at the Last Supper. The most dramatic thing that happened at that original Last Supper was when Jesus washed the feet of his apostles.
In those days, as an act of hospitality, when you arrived at a home for a visit a servant came out to wash your feet. This was a desert country so people walked barefoot. On that special Holy Thursday, Jesus steps forward to take on the servant’s task and washes the apostles’ feet. Then he tells the apostles: “Do you understand what I just did for you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and fittingly enough, for that is what I am. But if I washed your feet – I who am Teacher and Lord – then you must wash each other’s feet. What I just did was to give you an example, as I have done, so you must do.”
It does matter a great deal to each pastor today to bend down and wash a few parishioner’s feet. It says a great deal: “I want to serve as Jesus did.”The Holy Thursday Mass closes with a procession. A procession is simply a walk, a journey with the Lord. On Holy Thursday, this procession is a way of honoring the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist. Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist as the Last Supper with the apostles. Bread and wine – consecrated and blest – now the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The procession reminds us that as we carry the Blessed Eucharist around the Church so we must carry this presence of the Lord into our world. Now sacramentally united to each one of us we truly are the Body of Christ with a message for the world.
Following the procession, the people are invited to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Eucharist, praying in the presence of our God. Consider that for thousands of years since the Last Supper and now this powerful sacrament has given meaning and power to the people of God.
On Good Friday, each pastor carries a cross into the service then he leads the faithful to come forward to venerate this cross of Jesus. From the very beginning of our priesthood, the cross of Christ has been our constant companion.
It is truly fitting then during Holy Week that I and all the priests honor and venerate the cross and seek the help and love of the Lord to help me carry my crosses.
Then at the Easter Vigil Mass, the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated in magnificent style with many Scripture readings to remind us who we are. We are the People of God.
One of the important parts of the Easter Vigil ceremony is the blessing of the Baptismal font and the Baptismal water. Then the Sacrament of Baptism is conferred on the catechumens, who have been preparing for Baptism during the past year.
The Easter Vigil is a magnificent ceremony – and each year as part of the vigil is the celebration of new life in the Sacrament of Baptism.