Monday, March 21, 2016

Christianity's Holiest Week

Jesus enters Jerusalem
Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the chief week of the liturgical year.  We focus in particular upon the Paschal mystery: the journey of Jesus from this earthly life through the mystery of death into a transformative, transfigured heavenly life.

The word “paschal” refers to the Hebrew Passover, or the passing of the angel of death over the homes of Hebrews in ancient Egypt (that spared their first-born child).  In a larger sense, Passover refers to the Hebrew liberation from their oppressors.  The Jewish community re-experiences this exodus or liberation in a Seder service.

On Palm Sunday, Christians reflect upon a paradox: the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and the Gospel proclamation of the passion and death of Jesus.  Even in the tragedy of Good Friday there is the triumph of Easter.

The Word of God from Isaiah is a poem about a “servant” who suffers for us.

Paul’s letter quotes an early Christian hymn about God who became one of us, obedient even to death on the cross. And because of this, God greatly exalted him.

And the Gospel according to Luke proclaims the passion and death of Jesus.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday are known as the triduum (from a Latin word meaning three days).

Thursday we commemorate the Lord’s Supper: there is the washing of feet (a symbol of service); and then the eating of a sacrificial meal in which Jesus gives himself to us in the signs of bread and wine (a symbol of our oneness with God and with our fellow human beings).  

Good Friday we meditate upon the passion and death of Jesus: the Garden of Gethsemane; the trial; the crucifixion; the burial; the veneration of the cross; and then a simple communion service.

The Easter vigil commemorates the passage of Jesus from this earthly life through death into a transformative heavenly life.  The vigil includes fire (a symbol of Jesus as the light); the story of our salvation; the sacraments of initiation for our RCIA candidates; the renewal of our baptismal promises; and Eucharist.

Easter proclaims that Jesus is risen; is alive among us, and is especially alive in the sacramental life of our global Catholic community.  The resurrection is a pledge of our own liberation.  

Let me conclude briefly by noting the Deutschland, a ship which ran aground off the coast of England in 1875.  Among the 157 passengers who perished were five nuns fleeing Otto von Bismarck’s anti-Catholic legislation.

As the water rose around them, the nuns clasped hands and were heard saying, “O Christus, komm schnell” or “O Christ, come quickly!”  

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland, dedicated to the nuns.  He concludes the poem with this line referring to Christ:

Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us…”

As used in this poem, the word “easter” is a nautical term.  It means steering a craft toward the east, into the light. And that light is Jesus Christ.

Yes, “Let Christ easter or live in us as our light.”  Have a blessed Holy Week.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this Francisca Easter Journey. I shall share with my 3rd Order Secular Franciscans. May we all ask for the power of the Resurrection this Lent and at Easter.
    pax et bonum. Christina, ofs