Sunday 1 April 2007

Holy Week begins

Last night six of us took part in the Lucenarium which I have recently started celebrating again on the vigil of Sunday. This is a photo taken in the chapel in my presbytery last night. Of course, last night was the vigil of Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, a week which in fact lasts two weeks since Easter day is a feast of eight days in itself.
The Liturgies of these days are amongst the oldest which are celebrated by the Church. There are references to the Palm Sunday Liturgy by St Ciril of Jerusalem (died 386); that pilgrims went over the very ground where Christ passed as he came into the city. They would go out to Bethany and there, thinking of that first palm Sunday procession, they would come back to Jerusalem, holding palms and singing to Christ. Then, when the pilgrims went home to their own lands, they woud describe what they had seen and done. This Liturgy, given to us by Rome, does not have its origin there but in Jerusalem.
What is also unusual at the Palm Sunday Mass is that the Gospel is the account of the Passion. This year we will read St Luke's account of the Passion. Both the procession and the Gospel of Palm Sunday announce and express what we are doing at the beginning of Holy Week. We are welcoming Christ as he comes to perform his greatest work; entering into the depth of human life so as to redeem it. We are welcoming him into our culture, into the Church and into our lives. What happens on Palm Sunday is at once the genuine expression of friendship offered to Christ by countless Catholics, and his entry into fallen humanity in order to do the unspeakable - to suffer and to die in our place and to rise again so that we can have a new life. His humble entry into Jerusalem is an utterly self-effacing expression of his friendship toward us. And in the days of Holy Week which will follow his expressions of friendship toward us will increasingly be filled with light and love.
Today is the day when we should decide anew to stand with Christ, to want his company, to follow his gestures, his words, his glances. This week will be a time of great light for us.

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