Here are some thoughts I wrote for our bulletin cover as we begin Holy Week.
Today we celebrate “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord,” more commonly known as “Palm Sunday.” It’s an easy name to remember given that at Mass we bless palms and take them home with us. The first gospel reading we hear today reminds us of the symbolism of the palms, signifying the royal welcome Jesus received as He entered Jerusalem for the final week of his life.
One should note that I said “the first gospel reading.” Today, we actually hear two gospel passages. The first marks the beginning of this most sacred time we call “Holy Week.” The second gospel we hear is the story of Jesus’ Passion. It begins with the Last Supper, followed by the story of the agony in the garden, Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, his trial, and Crucifixion. This is the story of Jesus’ suffering. It is also the story of our salvation. It is so important that it is not enough to celebrate it as a single day. One hour on Sunday does not do it justice.
Certainly, we hear the story of Jesus’ Passion today and next Sunday we will hear of Jesus’ Resurrection but I know I came to more deeply appreciate the meaning of these events when I started attending all three services associated with what we call the Easter Triduum (triduum meaning three days).
First, on Holy Thursday, (at 7:00 p.m.) we commemorate the Last Supper when Jesus gave us his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We hear the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as a call to service. This is also celebrated as the institution of the priesthood at Jesus’ instruction of service and the call to celebrate the Eucharist.
Then, on Good Friday, (at 3:00 p.m.), we celebrate the Crucifixion. On Palm Sunday, we hear the Passion as told in Luke’s Gospel. On Good Friday, we hear the Passion as told in John’s Gospel. While we have already heard about the Passion today, for me there is something very moving about hearing it on Good Friday followed by the veneration of the Cross where we all come forth to venerate the Cross as the instrument of our salvation.
Then on Saturday night, (at 7:30 p.m.), we celebrate the Easter Vigil. Now, I admit this is a long Mass but to me it doesn’t seem long because of the sacredness of the night. We begin with the blessing of fire, celebrating the gift of light. We continue with scripture readings telling us the story of salvation. Then we will baptize and receive three people into full initiation as members of our Catholic faith. Then, we celebrate the Eucharist. This truly is the most holy night of the year.