April 9, 2017 – A View from the Rectory Window

 

Holy Week, Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday, is a journey through the last weeks of the life of Our Lord and the story of salvation for the people of God. It is the most solemn and Holy Week of the entire Christian liturgical year.

Liturgy literally means, “the work of the people.” It is where the work of the people, and the work of God come together in one mystical celebration. Liturgy is not simply some form of participating in religious observances. Liturgy is a mystical celebration where God and humanity, heaven and earth meet.

We begin with Palm/Passion Sunday in our parish churches and we recognize that our initial joy of welcoming Jesus into the city of our life can all too quickly end with denial of Christ when following Him requires real  sacrifice and commitment. But this is just the beginning of the week.

The high point of Holy Week is the Triduum when we gather in only one church as one parish to celebrate the central moment of our Christian identity. On Holy Thursday we celebrate that Our Lord, the night before He died, left us with the enduring gifts of the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood. After the Mass we begin the liturgical journey of the Passion with Jesus to the Agony of the Garden, the betrayal and arrest, the mock trial of injustice, and the night in prison.

Good Friday is the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on the cross, and the Veneration of the Cross. We call Good Friday, “good” because we celebrate the loving sacrifice of God in Jesus for everyone, and for each one of us personally. Here we focus on every suffering and every drop of blood Jesus shed for us personally. Later we will gather for Tenebrae in the pavilion as if outside the tomb.

Holy Saturday is eerily quiet and still. We try to capture something of the sense of absence that the first followers of Jesus might have felt after he died on the cross. No liturgies. No communion. No Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. All church décor is gone. All is empty and lifeless.

Then, after sundown and before sunrise on Sunday we celebrate the Easter Vigil. We recall the story of  salvation in our readings from the beginning of creation to the call of the chosen people. Then, in the Gospel we discover the empty tomb of Jesus and the sheer amazement of the first disciples. We too are amazed. From death to life. From darkness to everlasting life. From humiliation to glory. From sin and sorrow to holiness and joy. All is made new in the Risen Christ.

For others, we will like those first followers, leave our home in darkness, before the non-Christian world awakes and gather to await the rising sun and the Risen Lord. Whether on the beach in Strathmere or our parish   churches, we will celebrate with unparalleled joy that He is truly risen.

On this journey I will pray with you and for you during this Holy Week. Make the journey personally. Don’t allow this to be a week of disconnected rituals. Make it a mystical liturgical journey that is personal and truly life changing. Jesus did all of this personally for all of us. It is intimate. It is powerful. It is life changing. That’s really what we celebrate this Holy Week. This week set apart.

Fr. Pete