Dear Followers of Jesus,
This year we will celebrate Triduum 2021 with simplicity. According to guidelines from the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops, the liturgies for these sacred days are to remain simple and limited in ritual in order to follow safety protocols during the pandemic.
On Holy Thursday, April 1 at 5:30 pm, we will not wash feet or have any processions. There will be no altar servers and no Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. We will continue to celebrate the Eucharist with the bare bones as we have in this past year, including no hymnals and with safe distancing.
On Good Friday, April 2 at 3 pm, we will not have the Veneration of the Cross, but we will adore the cross in our seats as a community. We must continue this year with safety precautions.
On Holy Saturday, April 3 at 8 pm, we will not bless a new fire outdoors, but we will bless the Paschal Candle in the church. We will proclaim only three Old Testament scriptures and we will not bless ourselves with Holy Water. The same safety precautions will override much of this sacred liturgy this year.
Unfortunately, in this year of pandemic, our numbers are still limited for in-person prayer. Perhaps, watching the live-stream on our website may increase our desire to live our faith in the world, but nothing really takes the place of worshipping with others in Holy Week. At least this year, we can actually celebrate Holy Week with people unlike last year.
As Holy Week begins, the scriptures of Palm Sunday reveal to us a feast of the senses. We hear the crowd singing, “Hosana!” They push their way through a crowd to see Jesus. We listen to a woman break open an alabaster jar of oil to anoint the feet of the Lord. We can almost smell the healing of that outpouring of devotion. We take into our hearts the reverence and love of her longing for Jesus. We hear the whispers of betrayal. We can recognize them within our own lives. We can almost smell the bread Jesus breaks for his disciples and we can nearly taste the wine he shares in his desire for communion with us.
There is the cross on Jesus’ shoulders as he bears the weight of our lives and sins. We feel the confusion of the disciples to stay awake in the garden and the weight of their fear and potential grief even in our sleepy eyes. We can hear the lots being cast for Jesus’ garments. We sense the sky darken and the world waiting for something new to happen. We smell the dead body being carried to the grave. We feel the weight of the stone being rolled over the tomb. We all understand what it means to wait and long for new life.
I invite you into these important moments in our liturgical year even if you must pray at home. The events of this week remain vital for the growth of faith within our lives and the survival of the Church and of our community.
Holy Week liturgies are not only about the past. These liturgies help us see that God’s work continues in and through us. Grace is active in our lives. God is still redeeming the world in every action of our lives, how we think and perceive, what we stand for, and the commitments that we live in the world. God’s grace is acting upon our world so that we may all turn to Christ Jesus and know him as our Savior and Redeemer.
Holy Week liturgies surround us with the big story of our salvation. This meaningful journey is far deeper than our own daily routines or even the hopes we carry deep within our hearts. This story helps us makes sense out of our suffering, the turmoil of our relationships and the illusions out of which we live. Faith transforms us. Faith is lived with a deep and passionate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Holy Week outlines our relationship with Christ, that we die to ourselves and live in him. Jesus is the container of meaning for us, not politics or our national parties, not where we went to high school or the cool car we drive. The container of our lives is the Paschal Mystery, where we can live far beyond the limits that we put on ourselves.
Holy Week frees us from the fear of change and even death. We believe that Jesus prepares a home for us in heaven. Holy Week forms our lives, our hearts, our consciences, so that we will recognize our path in Jesus Christ. He prepares for us a place far beyond this earth and he will come back to bring us home with him. Meanwhile, we learn to live his love by lifting up people who most need us on earth.
Holy Week is a blueprint for us to follow and trace over again in our earthly lives, even during a pandemic, all the way home to his side.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor