Sheltered in Holy Week

Estimated reading time: ~ 7 minutes

TLDR: We are more primed now than ever to enter into Holy Week. Make this week truly holy by joining us in celebrating Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil.

After the sun has set on Saturday and night falls upon the earth, the faithful gather in vigil - awaiting the light that will shine in the darkness, awaiting the hope that will illuminate their way, awaiting the news that Christ is risen.

So begins the Easter Vigil. 

The Easter Vigil, during the holy night when Christ rose from the dead, ranks as the "the mother of all vigils." Keeping watch, the Church awaits Christ's resurrection and celebrates it in the sacraments. Accordingly, the entire celebration of this vigil should take place at night.
-General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar

The darkness of that Saturday night represents the gloom of sin and death, which has reigned on earth since Adam and Eve and which seemed even to have overcome Christ on Good Friday. How bleak, indeed, was that first Saturday night. 

The darkness of death has taken many forms over the centuries - from war and famine to plague and pestilence. Though the roots of darkness have remained the same from our first parents unto now, the fruits of sin are particularly dim this Holy Week. The coronavirus has caused a shadow to cover the world, and we are longing for light and life. 

What better way to enter into Holy Week. 

Next Saturday night, the Easter Candle will enter our unlit church at St. Mary’s. The light of one small flame will pierce the darkness, making present to our eyes the beautiful truth of John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
-John 1:1-5

No darkness, no matter how dim, can snuff out the light of even one candle. How much less has the darkness of sin been able to overcome the life of Christ! 

During Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ passover from the darkness of death to the light of life. This remembering is much more than nostalgia, the hope it bears much more than a far-off future relief. Through the celebration of Holy Week, the Church unites herself to Christ even now and goes where He goes. His victory becomes ours today as we, too, through the celebration of Holy Week, pass from death to life. 

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 1 Cor 15:55, 57

As members of the Church - the very body of Christ - we will go with Jesus, starting with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and continuing through the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the crucifixion on Good Friday, and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. We will not only remember and celebrate the victory of Christ. We will enter into it. Filled with the light of His life, we will shine with hope in the darkness of this pandemic, singing with rejoicing the faith we have received:

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Friends, our need to proclaim the faith of the Church, to rejoice in Christ’s victory over sin and death, feels more urgent than ever. The need to trust and proclaim that Christ is risen is always great, but it’s not always so acutely felt. With the fruits of sin so visible this Holy Week, we are primed more now than ever to gather in vigil - to await the light that will shine in the darkness, to await the hope that will illuminate their way, to await the news that Christ is risen. 

So join us. 

When the Easter Candle - the symbol of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and darkness - is placed in the sanctuary on that Saturday night, the Church will sing:

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Overwhelmed with the joy of Christ’s victory, she will even go so far as to cry out:

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

The words of this hymn, the Exsultet, reflect the truth that Jesus’ victory does not consist in simply overpowering a weaker foe. Our Lord could have undone the temptation of the serpent in any way, but He loves us so much that He chose to change what was our cause for shame and despair into the source of an even greater good than what was lost. As good as the garden of Eden was, it is nothing compared to God becoming man and dwelling among us. 

“O happy fault!” Our Lord completely destroys sin by making the fault of Adam to become the reason we have Christ as our savior and friend. That is how good God is to us. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God brought the greatest good of our salvation out of the most heinous evil of the crucifixion, and He wants this time of crisis to work for our good, too.

So hear His call to Holy Week. 

Beginning with Palm Sunday, the Church sets this week apart from all the other weeks of the year. So often, though, work and other engagements keep us from doing the same. But this Holy Week, with our need for the light of Christ more apparent than in recent memory, we are sheltered in place - with more ability to make time for Him than in recent memory. 

So hear His call to Holy Week.

There are plenty of devotions, prayers, and other spiritual practices to do so, but I want to suggest one above all the rest: join us in celebrating the Triduum.

Christ redeemed us all and gave perfect glory to God principally through his paschal mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life. Therefore the Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Thus the solemnity of Easter has the same kind of preeminence in the liturgical year that Sunday has in the week.
-General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar

All of the imagery that I have referenced throughout this blog comes from the Holy Triduum. I can’t recommend it more warmly. There is simply no better way to glorify God and receive the light of His life than joining the Church’s celebration on these days. 

The Holy Triduum consists of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. We will be celebrating and livestreaming this liturgy at 7:15 pm on Thursday, 7:15 pm on Friday, and 8:40 pm on Saturday, and we want you to join. I’ve included explanations of each day as well as ways to prepare for and enter more fully into the liturgy from your home below. Check them out and make this week truly holy. 

After the sun has set on Saturday and night falls upon the earth, the faithful gather in vigil - awaiting the light that will shine in the darkness, awaiting the hope that will illuminate their way, awaiting the news that Christ is risen. 

The light of Christ awaits us, a life that will illumine the darkness of this time and bring us the joy of hope. Let’s await Him, too.

If you are interested in learning more check out the appendix to this blog post: How to Prepare For and Enter More Fully into Holy Week!


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