THE GREAT WEEK
Today we begin the greatest week in the life of the Church. We call it “HOLY WEEK”, those of the Eastern tradition call it “THE GREAT WEEK”. Whatever its title it is the oldest and most important festivity in Christianity. During our Thursday novenas throughout Lent we have been preparing for this week.
Today, Palm Sunday, we celebrate the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. From apostolic times in Jerusalem, the early Christian carried palm branches, sang psalms and went in procession down the Mount of Olives into the city. Today at Mass we have a solemn proclamation of the Passion of Christ.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have no special rituals; the Gospel readings these days focus on the betrayal of Jesus.
Holy Thursday begins with the Mass of the Oils, and the renewal of priestly commitment at a special Eucharist (in Lansdowne) presided over by the Archbishop and concelebrated with most of the priests of the archdiocese.
In the evening we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Two unusual things stand out: the Washing of the Feet, imitating the action of the Servant Christ; this is the only occasion that it is stated that gifts for the poor be presented along with the bread and wine in the Offertory Procession. After the Mass the altar is stripped in preparation for the agony of Christ and all are encouraged to visit the Blessed Sacrament Chapel (the “Altar of Repose”) until midnight.
Good Friday sees most Catholics making the Stations of the Cross and in the afternoon attending the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. The service comprises a Liturgy of the Word (with ancient General Intercessions), the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.
The culmination of the whole experience of redemption is celebrated in the Great Vigil. The Service of Light begins outside the church. The Liturgy of the Word is held in darkness save for the Light of Christ, the Easter candle; the liturgy of Baptism/confirmation follows and finally there is the first Easter Eucharist.
It is my hope that you will all enter in the spirit of Holy Week, have a Great Week and come in gratitude to the joys of Easter.
Seán Wales, C.Ss.R