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PALM SUNDAY - April 14, 2019

Today begins the holiest week of the Church year, with the celebration of “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.”  All of Holy Week is given over to the commemoration of the Passion of the Lord, which has as its beginning, the Messianic entrance into Jerusalem (cf Universal Norms, 31.)  The importance of this time of the year is stressed in the experience of the Church through the ages, in which we recognize that the days of Holy Week take precedence over everything else we usually do.  In and around the parish - apart from the large numbers of volunteers diligently working to ensure we are well prepared for the liturgical celebrations - no other celebrations are permitted.  Sacraments are limited.  The Church moves differently, it celebrates differently, even the feel of church is different in these days.

Palm Sunday brings with it the first proclamation of the passion of Jesus (this year, we take our gospel reading from Luke.)  In fact, so intent is the focus that it is actually the only Sunday in the year when we are permitted to set aside the readings that preceded the gospel.  That’s not our practice here at Lourdes, but I mention it only to underscore the gravity of our attentions in these days.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week tend to be pretty subdued about the parish, although the work that goes into preparing for the liturgies of the great three-day-feast, or Triduum, is quite astounding.  By Thursday morning, the parish usually has enveloped itself in a quiet air of expectation as we anticipate the opening liturgy of the Solemn Triduum.

The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper is the only mass permitted on Holy Thursday, given that our Chrism Mass takes place earlier in the week.  During this liturgy, we receive the oils that were blessed by Archbishop for the use in the celebration of the sacraments here in our parish in the coming year.  We also read from the gospel of John, listening to the narrative describing the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus.  It is instructive that the Church follows this practice of linking service to thanksgiving. Our great liturgy of Thanksgiving (Eucharist) is marked by the example of Jesus’ own service among his followers.  We don’t focus on the bread and wine becoming the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus, but rather on the example of the humility of service given to us by Jesus.  The “New Commandment” forever makes explicit this relationship between right worship (orthodoxa) and right living (orthopraxis.)  From the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we have entered into the great three-day feast that is our Sacred Triduum.  No other sacrament is celebrated until after the Easter Vigil, signified by the stripping bare of the altar at the end of Thursday’s liturgy, and the dismissal of the congregation without the usual “final blessing.”


Good Friday’s liturgy continues quietly, with an almost abrupt “opening prayer,” a reminder that our Triduum liturgy continues from the evening before, through the focus now on the narratives of the Passion of the Lord.  We join with the Church throughout the world in listening to the proclamation of John’s gospel, recounting the passion of Jesus, followed by elaborate intercessions and the veneration of the Cross.  “Only one cross should be offered for the veneration” (Roman Missal,) reminding us of the profound importance of our unity as one people of faith, redeemed by One Lord and Savior.  Here at Lourdes, we also participate in our traditional reflections with the Seven Last Words of Jesus and in the Stations of the Cross.  Our focus is solidly on the Passion of the Lord and its significance for us in our lives.

Holy Saturday sees us waiting… the Cross is empty, and our focus begins to anticipate the great mystery of our Salvation in the culmination of the Paschal Feast at the Easter Vigil.  As we keep watch with Christ in the tomb, we do not celebrate sacrament on this day.  All our efforts, all our prayers now tend towards the celebration of the “Mother of all Vigils.”  As Sunday is to our regular church week, so the Easter Vigil is to our year.  With sundown, we enter upon the celebration of all of Salvation History, culminating in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who broke for us the chains of death so that all might live in the eternity of life in God.  We leave behind the ache of the bloodied, though now empty, cross, and we enter into the great celebration of life itself, the empty tomb testifies for us to the joy of the Rising Son, and we are reminded of our call and destiny, to follow where he has gone, and to enter into life eternal.

Have a wonderful Holy Week.

 

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