Holy Week leads to Resurrection

Published on Apr 7th, 2012 by Austin Keith | 0
“Behold, now is a very acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2)

The final in our series for Lent – Enriching your faith in preparation for Easter!

By Erin McGeever, director of Christian Formation

“Almighty ever-living God, who as an example of humility for the human race to follow caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross, graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering and so merit a share in his Resurrection.” (Palm Sunday Collect)

And with this prayer begins the celebration of Holy Week. “Palm Sunday” is the popular name for the Sunday before Easter, although its full name is, “Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.”  Two Gospel passages are proclaimed: one tells of people waving palm branches to welcome Jesus in triumph into Jerusalem, the other tells of his Passion and death. Usually one of the Masses of Palm Sunday contains a procession. The faithful are given palm branches (Jn 12:13) which become sacramentals for their homes after they are blessed. Used palm branches are burned the following year to provide the ashes for Ash Wednesday.

The Paschal Triduum, called the very heart of the liturgical year, contains the most solemn celebrations of the church year. The triduum begins with the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, includes the Good Friday observances, reaches a high point with the celebration of the Easter Vigil and concludes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.
The Chrism Mass, traditionally celebrated on Holy Thursday morning, is held in the Diocese of St. Augustine on Wednesday of Holy Week at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.

The Mass of Chrism gathers the faithful of the diocese to their mother church with their shepherd. At this solemn celebration, Bishop Felipe Estévez will consecrate the holy oils for sacramental use during the coming year in the various parishes and institutions of the diocese.   Since the bishop is unable to preside at all liturgies wherein the sacred oils will be used, he will symbolically be present when his priests and deacons use these oils. In recent years, the Chrism Mass has also acknowledged the ministry of priests. During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Estévez and the priests of the diocese will renew their priestly promises.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated Thursday evening of Holy Week. This Mass is first and foremost, the memorial of the institution of the Eucharist. It is also the memorial of the institution of the priesthood, by which Christ’s mission and sacrifice continue in the world.  Additionally, this Mass is also the memorial of the depth of the love our Lord has for us, even unto death. The Gospel of John is proclaimed at this Mass – in this narrative of the Last Supper, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. In performing this simple act, Jesus sets the model for all discipleship – humble service. At the close of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, preparation for the next liturgy begins. Extra hosts are consecrated on Holy Thursday, as Good Friday is the only day during the year when a Mass is not offered. Following the Holy Thursday liturgy, the hosts are taken to an ‘altar of repose,” symbolizing the movement to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Many parishes invite the faithful to “watch and pray” until midnight. In the church proper, the altar and sanctuary are stripped. Holy Thursday ends in solemn, focused silence.

The principal liturgy of Good Friday takes place with the celebration of the Lord’s passion, frequently held in the afternoon. It begins with the ministers entering in silence and laying prostate before the altar, an act symbolizing total submission to God.  The series of intercessions that follow the reading of the Passion are an ancient form used for centuries. The veneration of the cross is the heart of the Good Friday liturgy. The faithful show their reverence in a variety of ways:  kissing, bowing or genuflecting. This rite of veneration is called “The Showing of the Holy Cross.” Although the Eucharist is not celebrated, hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday are distributed. Again, the liturgy ends with solemn and focused silence.

In accord with ancient tradition, Holy Saturday is a night of vigil for the Lord, a memorial of the holy night of Christ’s resurrection. The church celebrates it as it did in ancient times, with the sacraments of initiation. The Easter Vigil Mass begins in darkness and then proceeds with the kindling of new fire, “Make this new fire holy, and inflame us with new hope” and “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” (Liturgy for the Nightwatch of the Lord’s Resurrection) 

The new Paschal candle is carried in procession and from it the candles of all the baptized gathered are lit. Salvation history is told in nine readings from Sacred Scripture. Eight Psalms tell our response to all that God has done for us throughout history. At the end of these Old Testament readings, the church is lit and we sing the Gloria. After the Gospel telling of the Resurrection of our Lord, the catechumens are called to the font for baptism. The litany of the saints accompanies them, again connecting us with our ancestors in the faith. The new water is blessed; the profession of faith spoken and the catechumens receive new life in Christ. A white garment and candle speak of this new life in Christ. The rest of the faithful gathered also renew their baptismal promises and are sprinkled with holy water as a remembrance of their own baptisms. The catechumens and candidates are then confirmed and the celebration of the Eucharist continues. A double Alleluia closes the Easter Vigil.

Most parishes have several Easter Sunday Masses in addition to the Easter Vigil. Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum end with Night Prayer on Easter Sunday evening.

Since Holy Week and in particular the Sacred Triduum are the high points of the liturgical year, it is important for the faithful to fully celebrate them. Please check your parish’s website for their Holy Week schedules. You may gain access to parish websites by clicking here. Also, many parishes provide extra confession times during Holy Week for those who desire to receive that sacrament.
Resources for Lent


The Holy Father’s Lenten Message on Fraternal Correction available in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/lent/index_en.htm

Lenten Music from the Vatican: www.vatican.va/liturgical_year/liturgico_en/lent.html
Journey to the Foot of the Cross USCCB Blog by Bishop Ricken on “10 Things to Remember for Lent”:


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Lenten Resources:

Lenten resources from St. Anthony Messenger Press, including:
Lent with the Saints by Franciscan Father Greg Friedman
Lenten soundbytes
Lenten Radio

Praying Lent, the Creighton University online resources provide Stations of the Cross, a Lenten Retreat, daily meditations, spiritual readings:

Resources to use with children; has links to many other sites:

Stations of the Cross for Lent
Various deacons of the Diocese of St. Augustine will lead the Stations of the Cross during the Lenten season at Marywood Retreat & Conference Center in St. Johns. Each Sunday at 3 p.m., from March 4 through March 25, Catholics are invited to pray the Stations of the Cross outdoors at Marywood, located at 235 Marywood Drive, St. Johns, Fla. 32259. The Stations of the Cross will be celebrated at 1 p.m. on April 1 (Palm Sunday). For questions, please call (904) 287-2525 or visit http://www.marywoodcenter.org/.

Further south in Bunnell, Fla., at the St. Joseph Carmelite Monastery, Stations of the Cross are celebrated every Friday during Lent through Good Friday beginning at 3 p.m. Take I-95 South to Exit 278 (Old Dixie Highway). Their address is 141 Carmelite Drive, Bunnell, FL 32110. For more information, call (386) 437-2910 or visithttp://www.carmelitefathers.org/.