Palms, Passion and Progress: Holy Week is a Continuing Call to a New Life in Christ
Let us enter fully into this Great and Holy Week
Holy Week invites us to let go of self and embrace the Lord anew through continuing conversion. How desperately we all need to hear the Good news that we can begin again! The question is not whether we will mark time but how we will do so? For the Christian time is not meant to be a tyrant ruling over us with impunity. Rather, it is a teacher, inviting and instructing us to choose to enter more fully into our relationship with the Lord and in Him to make progress on the Path of Life.
Pope Benedict XVI on Palm Sunday
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - The week we call Holy (Great Week for Eastern Christians) began for me with proclaiming contrasting Gospel readings during the Liturgy of Palm or Passion Sunday. Before we enter the Church in a Procession waving Palm branches, we listen to the Gospel narrative and are invited to identify with the jubilant crowds welcoming the Master into Jerusalem.
Once inside the sanctuary, the Liturgy of the Word begins. Before long, some of those same people shouted "Crucify Him" as the Passion Gospel is proclaimed. As I grow older the connection between the two gospels and the frailties of life have become clearer to me.
Only by grace can I make progress in the path that leads to eternal life. What those contrasting Gospel accounts reveal draws me into this week called Holy and its numerous times of prayer and reflection. It draws me to an honest admission of my weakeness and an ever deepening appreciation of the "Amazing Grace" given in Jesus Christ.
The Passion narrative is filled with biblical characters with whom we can all identify. Each year we are called to reflectively prepare ourselves for the Holy Week services by doing just that. On Sunday, my friend and pastor asked us all, "who were you on Calvary?"
He hit the nail on the head. This has been a difficult year for me. This has been one of the most difficult Lents I have ever experienced. I know this Holy Week is an invitation to be made new again, to progress on the path that leads to life. The only question is, will I respond fully?
In the 1977 film "Jesus of Nazareth" Franco Zefferrelli ended the original version with words spoken by a character not found in the biblical accounts' named Zerah. The name literally means "Brilliance". He enters the empty crypt and seeing the burial cloth lying on the empty slab because Jesus has been raised says, "Now it begins; now it all begins." It is these words which come to my mind every year as we begin the High Holy Days of the Christian faith during this "Holy Week" or "Great Week".
The Liturgy of Palm or Passion Sunday, with its re-presentation of the triumphal entry of the Master into Jerusalem leading into the first Passion Narrative sets the Liturgical framework for a week which is filled with invitations of grace. However, it is up to each of us to choose to receive them or not. That is part of the mystery of human freedom. To be "Holy" is to be set aside for God. Entering fully into the Liturgical celebrations of this week can actually change us - that is what it means to be converted. "Now it begins; now it all begins".
There is no better book to assist Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and lay men and women charged with the task of preparing truly good liturgies in the Modern Roman Rite than Monsignor Peter J. Elliott's "Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year" . Monsignor Elliott writes in his Introduction: "Christians understand time in a different way from other people because of the Liturgical Year. We are drawn into a cycle that can become such a part of our lives that it determines how we understand the structure of each passing year."
"In the mind of the Christian, each passing year takes shape, not so much around the cycle of natural seasons, the financial or sporting year or academic semesters, but around the feasts, fasts and seasons of the Catholic Church. Without thinking much about it, from early childhood, we gradually learn to see time itself, past, present and future, in a new way. All of the great moments of the Liturgical Year look back to the salvific events of Jesus Christ, the Lord of History."
"Those events are made present here and now as offers of grace. This week is Holy not only because of what we remember but because of what it can accomplish within each one of us as we give our voluntary "Yes" to its' invitation. To put it another way, in Christ time takes on a sacramental dimension. The Liturgical Year bears this sacramental quality of memorial, actuation and prophecy."
"Time becomes a re-enactment of Christ's saving events, His being born in our flesh, His dying and rising for us in that human flesh. Time thus becomes a pressing sign of salvation, the "day of the Lord", His ever present "hour of salvation", the kairos. Time on earth then becomes our pilgrimage through and beyond death toward the future Kingdom. The Liturgical Year is best understood both in its origins and current form in the way we experience time: in the light of the past, present and future."
"The Liturgical Year thus suggests the sovereignty of the grace of Christ. We say that we "follow" or "observe" the Liturgical Year, but this Year of Grace ...
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