And so it begins…the time of the year that the Church remembers the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, Holy Week. The Church is never as radiant and breathtaking as she is during this week and the liturgies and commemorations of each day inspire and transform us. They transcend time and space and transport us back to the beginning. Our prayers, gestures and music are the same as those of generation after generation and we sense that we are truly part of the Mystical Body of Christ. It is a week of sight, sound, smell, touch and deep emotion. It is a week of collective remembrance.
It’s amazing to think that this commemoration is happening again and again at every hour of each day somewhere in the world from Queensland to Miami to Cairo as Catholics by the millions gather in great Cathedrals, parish churches, mission churches and huts all praying the same prayers in every language, all becoming part of the same mystery and going through the same wrenching emotions.
We sing “Hosanna!” and a few minutes later we scream, “Crucify Him.” We braid our palm branches into intricate designs, and we take them home to bless our houses.
We see Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and hear the command to “do as I have done.” We watch the Host and Chalice as they are lifted high into the air, “This is my Body…this is my blood…do this in remembrance.” And that’s what we do. We remember.
We stand together at the foot of the cross and feel deep remorse and grief as the last drops of Our Savior’s blood are trickling down to the ground, knowing that there have been times that we’ve said “I do not know the man” and times we’ve said, “Jesus, remember me.” We sing, “Were You There?” and know that, yes, we were there.
Then we wait. We place ourselves in an upstairs room because we are afraid and alone in the dark. The tabernacle door is hanging wide open and he’s not there and we wonder how we’re going to make it without him. Just as we begin to despair, piercing through the blackness of the night a tiny light appears, just one but soon many, and as the light grows brighter and stronger the song rings out, “Rejoice, heavenly powers. Sing choirs of Angels!” We do rejoice and our “Alleluia” rings out from the deepest part of our being. The Church, all of it, is rejoicing. The Church, all of us, are renewed and happy once more.
I’ve often told people that the liturgy of the Church is the only perfect thing there is on earth. The Liturgies of the days of Holy Week are the most perfect of them all.