Dear friends in Christ:
We are beginning the holiest week of the year. This year, as every year, we recall the events of that week 2000 years ago when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem to the cries of exaltation from the crowds and we journey with him to the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, his arrest and torture, and then finally, the journey to Calvary and his crucifixion and death. Increasingly though, Holy Week is not as holy as it used to be for many. If I had to venture a guess, Holy Week is becoming more and more like Christmas – too busy and too secularized. We are trying to do too much and in the process we are missing what is truly important.
Many of the schools just had Spring Break. I am always amazed at how many folks with no kids in school “observe” Spring Break. Many families with kids do not hesitate to take an extra day off, letting the kids miss school for travel, the rodeo, hunting season, a special performance, a sporting event etc., but would never think of taking a day – like Holy Thursday or Good Friday, to spend in prayer as a family. Increasingly, Holy Week for many is becoming something akin to the week of preparation for the Super Bowl, Halloween, the 4th of July or New Year’s: meals to plan and prepare, activities to attend and shopping to do. Then we wonder why we are so tired and cannot concentrate on the spiritual meaning of Holy Week and Easter. Worse is when we think that Holy Week and Easter Mass just aren’t exciting enough or worth it and is a let down to the entire celebration!
I know that I am beginning to sound like “an old guy” but I remember when everything shut down on Good Friday. It was a still and quiet day. No school, no ball games, no rushing around or business as usual. The only movement was folks going to church to reflect on the meaning of the day that Jesus died. These days the overall tenor of the day is not going to be like it was years ago. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make Good Friday and Holy Week reverent and special. This Holy Week, I plead with you to slow down. Be courageous in living your faith and observing these Holy Days. We admire our Jewish friends when their kids do not compete in sports or take part in school activities when these events occur on Jewish Holy Days. We respect non-Christians when they take their religious observances seriously. As Catholics, we should sincerely take our faith seriously too. If we don’t respect and observe our Catholic faith, why should anyone else? Take extra time each day of Holy Week and spend it in prayer. Read the gospels, pray the rosary. If you can, don’t go to work on Good Friday. If you can, give your employees the day off on Good Friday and encourage them to go to church. Don’t go shopping or play golf. Come to church and pray. Spend some quiet time in prayer. Be still. Turn the TV and the computer off. Talk to your spouse and to your kids about what it means that Jesus died for YOU! Talk to Jesus and tell him what it means to you that He died for you! Feel the power of the day.
If you have never been to the Easter Vigil, come this year. This is THE MASS of the year. Every Mass in a sense is a replica or condensed version of the Easter Vigil.
Of course, theologically, the Easter Vigil is only part of the Liturgy of the Sacred Triduum, the Holy Three Days. The liturgy begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening, continues with the service of Good Friday (the reading of the Passion, Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion) and concludes with the Easter Vigil (The Blessing of the Easter Fire, the Easter Proclamation, the vigil of readings, the Blessing of the Holy Water, the celebration of the Easter Sacraments and the Liturgy of the Eucharist). The liturgy takes time. To experience all of the rites as they are intended is different than just catching them piece meal or just coming to Easter Sunday Mass. In a sense, coming only to Easter Sunday Mass is like watching the last twenty minutes of a two hour movie. You know the ending but it is hard to fully appreciate how you got there!
This Holy Week and Easter treat yourself and be treated to, something special. Experience a truly holy Holy Week. Be still, be quiet, slow your mind and open your heart. Feel the passion of His Passion, share the agony of His Cross and rejoice with Him in His triumph over the power of sin and death.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately