This week is Holy Week. We call it “Holy” because this is the week we commemorate the essence of the Paschal Mystery, that is, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. On Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a way of staying with us in time forever. That day we also reenact Jesus’ loving action: the washing of the feet of his disciples. This ritual reminds us that following Jesus essentially means this: to serve others.
On Good Friday we commemorate Jesus’ death. In a church devoid of decorations, we listen to the reading of the passion and reverence the cross as the instrument of our salvation. Ironically, no Mass is celebrated on Good Friday. Hosts that were consecrated the previous day are consumed at this service. Holy Saturday is a quiet day liturgically. But many churches are anything but quiet as sacristans and other workers begin to decorate the church with lilies, azaleas, daffodils, candles and ribbons for Easter. The formal Easter celebration begins on Saturday night with the Easter Vigil. This beautiful service begins around an open fire with the lighting of the Easter candle, a symbol of Jesus himself. Into the darkened church the congregation processes with their lighted candles. The readings recall the story of first Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and the new Exodus, Jesus’ passing from death to life. Amid Easter lilies, candles and beautiful music, the Masses on Easter Sunday continue this festive Easter celebration.
During Holy Week, we do not merely “commemorate” Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection; we enter into it with our lives. This means we bring to each of the services our own joys, struggles, hopes, dreams, sufferings, and love. We reaffirm our love for Jesus who loves us more than we could ever imagine. We marvel at his great sufferings, yes, but we marvel more at the great love that enabled him to bear such horrific pain. We see that the power of the resurrection is not limited to an event that happened over 2,000 years ago. The power of the resurrection is active and alive in our world today. Where? Wherever we see people serving others, praying every day, helping the weak and vulnerable, being honest and ethical, bearing crosses with dignity and courage, being faithful to their commitments, hoping despite struggles and setbacks, and working together tirelessly for a better world.
Happy Holy Week and Happy Easter!