Our Lenten journey is drawing to a close and the Church is getting set for the great celebration of Easter. The week which is called “Holy Week” is meant to be just that — a holy time. As we approach the end of Lent, I often hear from people that their Lenten journey was not as fruitful as they had hoped it would be. Thoughts that “I had planned to do more,” or “I really intended to do this” can leave us feeling that we did not use Lent as we might have.
Well, the good news is: Lent is not over yet — and Holy Week can be a very fruitful time in our spiritual preparation for Easter. Beginning with Palm Sunday, the liturgies of Holy Week are wonderful opportunities to enter more fully into prayer and meditation on the beautiful gift of Jesus.
Beginning on Holy Thursday, the Church begins the three-day celebration of the Triduum. Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It is also known as Maundy Thursday, which comes from the Latin mandatum, meaning mandate, since at the Last Supper Jesus gave his apostles the mandate, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” It is a powerful reminder to each of us that we are called to live out the Gospel in our daily lives and imitate Jesus’ love.
The celebration of the Lord’s Passion is among the most moving liturgies of the whole year. The simplicity and quiet of this day is marked with the powerful retelling of the events of our Lord’s passion and death. It is a day marked with extraordinary intensity and no matter how many times one attends, you cannot help being moved and brought to a greater understanding of the price that Jesus paid for our sins.
The starkness of Good Friday gives way the celebration of the Easter Vigil. I don’t generally like to acknowledge a “favorite” Mass of the year, as every one is quite miraculous, but if I were going to claim one as a favorite, Easter Vigil would be that one. It begins in darkness with the blessing of fire and celebration as Christ is the “light that no darkness can overcome.” There are four readings from the Old Testament which give an abbreviated synopsis of salvation history, from the creation of the world, to the covenant that God made with Abraham, to Moses and the Israelites being led to freedom from Pharaoh.
At last there is the proclamation of the Easter Alleluia and the Gospel account of the empty tomb. The Easter Vigil also celebrates the sacrament of baptism and confirmation for those who have been preparing in our parish RCIA program. It is a celebration of light and renewal and most importantly of resurrection. If you have never attended the Triduum liturgies or the Easter Vigil Mass, I invite you to join us this year. It is a truly amazing way to end your observance of Lent and be renewed in your commitment to Christ.
Remember, it is not too late to make this Lent truly meaningful this year. Father Mark Pavlik, St Olaf's Minneapolis