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Father Muench Says...

Preparing for Holy Week

March 20, 2024

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Time to prepare ourselves for Holy Week. This is the holiest week of our Church year. During this week, we will walk with Jesus as we celebrate his crucifixion and his resurrection. We celebrate these events in Jesus’ Passion and death so that we will again realize all that Jesus did in saving us all.

Today, please join me, as we consider Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Before Jesus was arrested, he gathered with his apostles to celebrate the Passover – his Last Supper with them. Even to today, Jewish families continue to celebrate the Passover. This is a family event, a meal at home. This Passover remembers that their people were once slaves in Egypt. The Old Testament Book of Exodus tells us the story. God sent Moses to rescue the Hebrew people, bringing a series of plagues upon Egypt and freeing them to leave and travel to the Promised Land.

The last of those plagues was the death of the first born of each family. To protect the Jewish families, each family was to procure and prepare a lamb for this Passover meal. They were instructed to take some of the blood of the lamb and put it over the door of their houses. The angel of death would pass over that home. They were saved by the blood of the lamb.

For us, followers of Jesus, we are saved by the blood of the Lord. Jesus has become our lamb of God. We celebrate this each time we celebrate the Holy Mass, instituted for us by Jesus at the Last Supper. So, On Holy Thursday, we remember the Lord’s Last Supper with a special Mass and procession in celebration of this Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Our Church has added a special ceremony to our Holy Thursday Mass, the washing of the feet. In Jesus’ time, it was a common practice, as a sign of welcome to visitors, that a servant would wash the feet of a guest. This was a desert land, most people walked barefoot. At the Last Supper, Jesus in humility stepped forward to wash the feet of his apostles. Then, Jesus instructed the apostles that they must demonstrate their dedication as followers of Jesus by washing the feet of their brothers and sisters. So, at our Holy Thursday Mass now, the Church asks each pastor to imitate Jesus by washing the feet of several parishioners as a demonstration of their dedication to their people.

Now, on Good Friday, there is no Mass. We gather as a parish to celebrate the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus. This service begins with a reading of the Passion of Jesus from the Gospel of St. John. Then we add a series of prayers and intentions, praying for the world and for our Church.

Then, we venerate the cross of Jesus. A deacon processes with a large cross from the back of the Church, stopping three times to sing, “Behold, the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.” We all respond, “Come let us adore.” Then we all approach the cross to personally venerate it. This is a moment of prayer as we turn to the crucified Lord seeking a new and strengthened faith in our lives. Jesus dies to teach us that we are a saved people; may we live like saved people.

Then in our service there is a Communion Service. The Blessed Eucharist was consecrated at the Holy Thursday Mass. We receive the Holy Eucharist with deep gratitude for all that Jesus did for us. We must be a grateful people; we must live like grateful people.

Our time of prayer on Holy Thursday and Good Friday lead us to the joyful celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection.

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