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THE BISHOP'S VOICE: Holy Week commemorates saving mysteries

04/06/2017 | Comments

We stand once again at the threshold of our annual celebration of Holy Week, so-called because in this week we commemorate the great mysteries by which we were saved — the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is indeed a “holy week.” It is the holiest of all weeks.

Palm Sunday. Holy Week begins with the celebration of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem “to accomplish his paschal mystery” (Roman Missal). The Synoptic Gospels narrate the three-year public ministry of Jesus as a gradual movement of Jesus to Jerusalem. It was there that he would lay down his life for the salvation of the world. This would be the culmination of his earthly ministry. In the Palm Sunday liturgy we join with those who welcomed Christ to Jerusalem by taking up our palms in joyful welcome of the Lord.

On Palm Sunday we hear the first of two proclamations of the Lord’s Passion. This year it is St. Matthew’s Gospel that is read.  It is the Passion of Christ that dominates these days of Holy Week.

Chrism Mass. This Mass is usually celebrated on Holy Thursday, but in many dioceses it is transferred to another day so that the priests may more easily participate.  Our diocesan Chrism Mass will be celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Tuesday, April 11 at 7 p.m. I invite as many of the faithful as are able to attend.

There are two principal aspects to the Chrism Mass.  First is the blessing of the oils of the sick and catechumens, and the consecration of the Sacred Chrism.  These are the oils that are used in the course of the year for the celebration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, holy orders and anointing of the sick.

The second aspect is a focus on the ordained priesthood. The priests of the diocese — both secular and religious — renew their commitment to priestly service before the bishop and the assembled faithful.  This is a moment filled with tremendous meaning for both priests and people.


Holy Thursday — Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  This liturgy commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples on the night before he died.  It was at that Last Supper that the Lord instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood that would continuously offer the Eucharistic sacrifice until He comes again.

A most dramatic and touching ceremony of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is the washing of the feet of 12 of the faithful by the priest celebrant. This, of course, commemorates the action of Christ himself at his Last Supper when he knelt to wash the feet of His own disciples. This liturgical action done by the priest, acting in the person of Christ our High Priest, is a mandate. As Christ came to serve his brothers and sisters, so are we to do the same.

Following the Mass the Eucharist is transferred to the altar of repose for adoration until midnight. Of all days, this is the day that we should some time in prayer before our Eucharistic Lord reserved in the tabernacle.

Good Friday — Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Death. No Mass is celebrated on Good Friday.  This is the day on which the Lord died and was placed in the tomb. The liturgy of Good Friday consists of prayer, Scripture readings (including the second proclamation of the Passion taken from St. John’s Gospel), the veneration of the cross and the reception of Holy Communion.

Holy Saturday. On this day “the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his suffering and death” (Roman Missal).  Again, there is no Mass on Holy Saturday, nor is Holy Communion received, except by the dying.

The Easter Vigil. This is the first Easter celebration. It is a night vigil.  It is a celebration of the resurrection and the new life that we receive through baptism into the risen Christ.  The catechumens that have been preparing to enter the Church are received through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist at this celebration, while the entire assembly renews their baptismal promises and all are sprinkled with the new baptismal water.

This is the most dramatic and most ancient of our Catholic liturgies. We light the Easter fire which reminds us that the light of Christ dispels the darkness of sin and death. We hear the scriptural accounts of God’s creative and saving actions in the Old Testament, and we offer the Eucharistic sacrifice by which we are saved.

      Easter Sunday. The Masses of Easter Day continue to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and our baptism into the risen Christ.

                I encourage all of you to participate in these beautiful Holy Week liturgies.  Check your parish bulletin or this issue of the Colorado Catholic Herald for the Holy Week schedule in your parish. And I wish each of you a most blessed and joy-filled Easter.  May we remain faithful to our baptismal commitments by living lives in imitation of Christ who gave Himself for us.

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