It is Holy Thursday morning. As I was at prayer this morning the sky became light and the sun rose above the horizon, a beautiful sunrise. Here was I contemplating entry to the Holy Week Triduum beginning with commemorating the Holy Thursday / Good Friday suffering and death of Jesus – and the sun rises. I was focussed on the suffering, and the sun rose! This was a powerful reminder for me that there are no days and no situation that is separate from the presence and action of the risen Son of God, Jesus, who is risen and with us especially in situations of suffering and even that taste of death.
The temptation for the Christian is that we mark this Holy Week – Easter journey as nothing more than a commemoration of a sacred and historical event. Yes the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus did happen in a moment of history, but this was just the beginning of a transformed human existence offered to all people of all time, and received by us in the Sacrament of Baptism.
Too many Christians fail to grasp this and their lives resemble a pre-Christ existence. Christ not only HAS risen, but IS risen. While suffering and death still burden us deeply we know that our human experience of these realities is our PATHWAY to a greater experience of the depth, breadth, heights of life now and eternally.
I invite you to this year walk the walk of every disciple this Holy Week journey while living deeply the present reality of your own life. Don’t try to hard to think “holy” thoughts about the historical events. Instead take part in the central events of the Triduum while deeply aware of the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of your own life this week. By carrying your reality into these key liturgies you open yourself to receiving the full experience of the resurrection of Jesus in a tangible and personal way. I call these liturgies the “KEY” liturgies because they open the door to the life that is more than simply a limited human survival.
These Liturgies are:
Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Good Friday – Celebration of the Lord’s Passion (3.00pm)
Holy Saturday – Celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil
Easter Sunday Mass
Yesterday morning in St. Peter’s Square Pope Francis introduced us to the Holy Week to Easter journey. This is what he said.
“The Gospel of this ceremony, recalling the washing of the feet, expresses the same meaning of the Eucharist from another perspective”, said the Holy Father to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “Jesus, like a servant, washes the feet of Simon Peter ad the other eleven disciples. With this prophetic gesture he expresses the meaning of His life and His passion, as service to God and to His brothers. … This also happens in our Baptism, when the grace of God cleanses us of sin and we are clothed in Christ. This happens every time we commemorate the Lord in the Eucharist: we make communion with Christ the Servant to obey His commandment, that of loving each other as He has loved us. If we partake in holy Communion without being sincerely willing to wash each other’s feet, we do not recognise the Body of the Lord”.
In the liturgy of Good Friday we consider the mystery of the death of Christ and we worship the Cross. “In the final moments of life, before delivering his spirit to the Father, Christ said, ‘It is finished’. … This means that the work of salvation is complete, that all the Scriptures find their fulfilment in the love of Christ, the sacrificial lamb. Jesus, by His sacrifice, transformed the greatest wickedness into the greatest love”.
The Pontiff commented that throughout the centuries men and women have, by the witness of their existence, “reflected a ray of this perfect, full, uncontaminated love”, offering the example of a heroic witness of our times, the Italian priest and missionary in Turkey Andrea Santoro, who shortly before being murdered in the church of Trebisonda on 5 February 2006, wrote: “I am here to live among these people and to let Jesus do so, lending Him my flesh. … We become capable of salvation only by offering our own flesh. The evil of the world must be borne and pain shared, absorbed in one’s own flesh unto the end, as Jesus did”. “This example, and many others, sustain us in offering our own life as a gift of love to our brethren, in imitation of Jesus”, exclaimed the Pope.
On Holy Saturday, “the Church contemplates Christ’s ‘repose’ in the tomb after the victorious battle of the Cross. On Holy Saturday the Church once again identifies with Mary: all our faith is encompassed in her, the first and perfect disciple, the first and perfect believer. In the darkness that enshrouds Creation, she alone keeps the flame of faith alight, hoping against all hope in Jesus’ Resurrection”.
On the great Easter Vigil, “we celebrate the Risen Christ as the centre and end of the cosmos and of history; we stay awake to await His return, when Easter will manifest itself fully. At times, the darkness of night seems to penetrate the soul; at times we think, ‘there is no longer anything to be done’, and the heart no longer finds the strength to love. … But it is precisely in that darkness that Christ lights the flame of God’s love: a gleam that breaks through the darkness, presage of a new beginning. The stone of suffering is overturned, making space for hope. This is the great mystery of Easter! On this holy night the Church gives to us the light of the Resurrection, so that we no longer have inside us the regret of saying ‘by now…’, but rather the hope of one who opens up to a present full of the future: Christ has defeated death, and we are with Him. Our life does not end at the tombstone!”.
“During these days of the Holy Triduum, let us limit ourselves to commemorating the Lord’s passion, but let us instead enter into the mystery, making His feelings and His attitudes our own, as the Apostle Paul tells us: ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus’. Then ours will be a happy Easter”.
Pope Francis, Wednesday Audience, 1 April 2015