The Life and Ministry of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ had it brutal climax in the events of the last days in Jerusalem.
The Church recognises how important these events are and helps us remember them by calling this week Holy Week. As Catholics, the sacred moments of our Faith need recalling and remembering, prayer and reflection. This Week then is not just another holiday week, but a series of Holy Days.
Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on Easter Sunday, but are warmly and strongly encouraged to participate in the various services of Holy Week. This little guide serves to help you position the various services and prepare yourself and your family to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection.
A few things to start with:
• As Catholics we don’t re-enact, but we do remember. Ours are dramatic services, but not plays.
• As Catholics we look at all our services through the eyes of the Resurrection – we do not re-crucify Christ, but use the various services of Holy Week to reinforce our faith that Our Lord Jesus Christ is ‘truly Risen, Risen indeed’ (Orthodox Christian greeting on Easter Sunday).
• As Catholics, even the laws of the Church point to the central mystery of the Resurrection. This is why we are obligated to attend mass on a Sunday – for every Sunday is a resurrection Sunday. We are also obligated to go to Confession once a year around Easter and receive Communion at least once a year around Easter.
• Catholics who chose to travel should factor their Easter Sunday Obligation into their travel plans.
• As with all celebrations – the more we put in, the more we get out.
Things to look out for:
• The most obvious changes to watch out for is the change in Colour – Royal Red and Blood red for Passion Sunday, Purple again for Monday to Wednesday, White for Thursday, Red for Good Friday and White/ Gold/ Silver for the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.
• Watch out for the changing decorations – Covered Statues and crosses from Passiontide, Palm Branches on Passion Sunday, Simple decorations including flowers for Holy Thursday, Sombre decoration for Good Friday and an all-out effort for the Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday and the Octave of Easter.
• Music – Music takes a simple tone from lent and passiontide. Good Friday’s tone is somber and Holy Saturday’s Vigil to the Second Sunday of Easter is exuberant.
• Bells are rung on Holy Thursday evening during the Gloria in excelsis and then remain silent until the Gloria in excelsis of the Great Easter Vigil. Effort should be made not to allow a cacophony, but a harmonious praise.
• Ministry opportunities – if one counts all the opportunities for ministry – from choir to usher to Environment and serving, most parish communities would have over 150 different tasks that need people to choose to do.
The Structure of Holy Week.
Holy Week begins with the First Evening Prayer of Passion Sunday (or Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord) on the Saturday Evening before Palm Sunday. This is followed by the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of Holy Week. On Holy Thursday is the Mass of the Oils (or Chrism mass) and the Mass of the Last Supper. Good Friday is the only day of the year where mass is not celebrated. By Custom, there is a service of the Stations of the Cross in the morning followed by the great Service of the Passion at 3pm. Holy Saturday is a day of prayer and Preparation for the great Baptismal Vigil and the feast of the Resurrection on Holy Saturday/ Easter Sunday.
Easter then is celebrated with an Octave – 8 days of celebration that ends with the Evening Prayer on the Second Sunday of Easter
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