There’s a reason it’s called “Holy Week” and that’s because in these days we will enter into the deepest mysteries of the Christian Faith. In this week we will observe and actually share in the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the events that redeemed mankind, reconciled us to God, and gave us a new beginning with the hope of eternal life. This week should be a retreat for us, a time when as much as possible we set aside our normal routines and turn our undivided attention to Jesus.
It begins of course with Palm Sunday when Jesus entered into the Holy City of Jerusalem. This is a day of mixed emotions for the Church. We first hear the joyful “hosannas” of the crowd that welcomed Jesus as the “Son of David.” And then in the reading of the Passion we hear the crowd cry, “Crucify him,” as Jesus was handed over and led to his cruel crucifixion.
The first days of Holy Week focus on Jesus as the “Suffering Servant of God.”
In the Gospels we encounter the tragic image of Judas who departed the Last Supper early as his plot to betray Jesus was about to unfold.
On Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper as we gather with the disciples to receive the precious gifts of the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist. And then, in solemn silence, we enter with Jesus into the lonely agony of Gethsemane, trying to keep watch, hoping to fare better than the disciples who fell asleep.
The cross of Jesus takes center stage the next day on Good Friday as we reflect upon the Passion of the Christ. We humbly venerate the “wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.” We find ourselves standing at the cross with the Virgin Mary and the Disciple John in stunned silence, trying to grasp the meaning of this cosmic event.
Holy Saturday is a day of silence and reflection as “the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and Death and his Descent into Hell, and awaiting his Resurrection.” (The Roman Missal)
Finally, then, on Easter Sunday with the holy women and the faithful disciples, we arrive at the tomb only to find it empty, and we hear the question of the angel that has echoed throughout the ages: “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead?” (Lk 24:5)
Something to think about: What will you do to make these days a spiritual retreat, to make them truly “holy?”