These are the high holy days of the Church of Christ: Passion (Palm) Sunday; Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper; the Good Friday liturgy; the Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection; and Easter Sunday, the joyful celebration that “God has raised Christ from the dead.” We who love Christ Jesus suffer, die, and rise with him.
I urge our parishioners to attend each of the liturgies of Holy Week. Each service is unique, and repeated only once a year, in a somewhat different form or style, depending on the celebrant and ministers. All of the liturgies of Holy Week focus on the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Christ, but each with its own emphasis: On Passion (Palm) Sunday, we are presented with an overview of the climatic events of Christ’s life through the reading of the entire Passion narrative. On Holy Thursday, our attention is drawn to Jesus’ Last Supper, in which he interpreted for us the meaning of the Passion, symbolized under the form of bread and wine, and symbolized in Christ’s washing the feet of his disciples: death in love for each and for all. On Good Friday, we remember the suffering and death of Jesus by listening to the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John, and we experience our gratitude and willingness to share in Christ’s suffering as we venerate the cross and receive holy communion.
Holy Week reaches its dramatic high point in the Easter Vigil, the most beautiful and meaningful liturgy celebrated by the Catholic Church. “This is the night when Christ rose triumphant” from death. This is also the night when the faithful renew their faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, to the community of disciples through space and time, to all of our fellow human beings, and to creation itself. This is the night when we receive with joy new members into the Body of Christ, celebrated through baptism, confirmation, and holy Eucharist. The Masses of Easter Sunday continue the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, and invite each of the faithful present to renew his baptismal vows. So beautiful and rich in meaning is the Resurrection of Christ from the dead that we continue this feast through 50 days of Eastertide, up to the Feast of Pentecost.
We all live busy lives, but I invite and urge all of our people to “come to the waters,” to enter into these liturgies with faith and loving attentiveness, in order to be renewed from within by the unsurpassable gift of the Holy Spirit. We present ourselves to the Lord, open ourselves to his word, resolve to follow Christ faithfully all the days of our lives, and we participate afresh in the inflowing of the Holy Spirit—God’s loving Presence in us, for us, with us.