Holy Week Festivities

14 Apr

Yesterday was Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, or more simply “Palm Sunday.” Thus began the period of time known as “Holy Week,” which culminates this Sunday with the celebration of Easter. In between these two Sundays, however, the Church invites us to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death through various devotions and liturgical practices.

One major event during Holy Week is the Chrism Mass, where the bishop blesses the oils that will be used throughout the coming year. While it’s traditionally celebrated on Thursday, there is some flexibility when it comes to the date, and most dioceses hold the Chrism Mass in the cathedral on the Monday or Tuesday of Holy Week. Archbishop Naumann will celebrate the Chrism Mass for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas on Tuesday, April 15th, at 11:00 a.m. at the Savior Pastoral Center chapel.

The chrism and the oil of catechumens blessed at the Chrism Mass will then be used in the celebration of the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.

Wednesday is known as Spy Wednesday because on this day Judas made a bargain with the high priests to betray Jesus for 30 silver pieces (Mt. 26:14-16; Mk. 14:10-11; Lk. 22:1-6).

On Thursday evening, known as Holy Thursday, the Church celebrates the anniversary of the Last Supper, when Christ instituted the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the sacrament of the priesthood. It’s also known as Maundy Thursday, because at the Last Supper Christ instituted the new commandment (Latin, mandatum) to love one another (cf. Jn. 13:34). The call to serve others in imitation of Christ is brought out in the foot-washing ritual during Mass.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper concludes with the removal of the Body of Christ from the tabernacle in the main body of the church. The Eucharist is carried in procession to another place where it is kept overnight, to be distributed during the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. After the procession, the altar is stripped bare, and all bells in the church are silent until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.

There is no Mass on Good Friday. The distinctive Good Friday liturgy has three parts: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion. The liturgy starts with the priests and deacons going to the altar in silence and prostrating themselves for a few moments in silent prayer, then an introductory prayer is prayed. The Liturgy of the Word includes a reading of Christ’s Passion according to St. John, as well as a prolonged Prayer of the Faithful during which we pray for the salvation of the whole world.

No sacraments are celebrated on Good Friday, and the church is barren, as we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection at the Easter Vigil. This time of anticipation is a time of prayer and penance. The faithful are required to fast and abstain from meat on Good Friday, and they are also encouraged, but not required, to continue this fast on Holy Saturday.

During the week there are other special opportunities for prayer. One such observance is the Tenebrae (Latin for darkness) services, which entails the public singing of part of the Liturgy of the Hours. While the format varies, it essentially involves the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited.

While Stations of the Cross is a popular devotion throughout the entirety of Lent, most parishes host a large, public celebration of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Similarly, the Holy Father typically leads a massive Stations of the Cross procession in Rome on the evening of Good Friday.

This is just a thumbnail sketch of some of the principal liturgies and devotions during Holy Week. You are warmly encouraged to consult your church bulletin or parish website for more information on Holy Week celebrations at your parish.

3 Responses to “Holy Week Festivities”

  1. Christy March 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Can anyone attend the Holy Mass of Chrism?

    • Leon Suprenant April 2, 2012 at 3:58 am #

      Yes, but seating is limited so I’d suggest arriving a little early.

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