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From the Pastor 03/25/18

Holy Week Has Arrived

Holy Week is the chief week of the liturgical year. In earlier centuries it was known as Passion Week because it commemorates the events of the passion of Christ. For the entire Church it is certainly known as the “Week of our Salvation.”

The original Holy Week was the annual celebration of the Paschal Feast which was celebrated as a three-day (Triduum), beginning with Good Friday and culminating on Easter Sunday. Holy Thursday was added in the 4th Century. And the entire week was organized around the 5th or 6th Century. Many of the Holy Week observances originated in Jerusalem and spread from there throughout the Church. In 1955 Pope Pius XII restored Holy Week to the prominence it had in the ancient and medieval times. The Pope stressed active participation by the laity in the services, and also eliminated from the rites whatever was no longer relevant. The II Vatican Council made slight changes to the new ritual of Pius XII.

Palm Sunday

Since 1955 the official name of the Sunday before Easter is the “Second Sunday of the Passion” or Palm/Passion Sunday.

The annual procession of the palms originated in Jerusalem in the 4th Century as a commemoration of the entry of Christ into the Holy City of Jerusalem. The faithful of Jerusalem gathered around their bishop on the Mount of Olives. They sang songs of praise and listened to readings from the Old Testament and the Gospel. Then at five o’clock they set out carrying olive or palm branches in their hands, accompanying the bishop who was seated on a mule, to the Church of the Resurrection.

From Jerusalem the custom made its way to the Gallican (French) Rite in the West and then slowly made its way to Rome. The procession with palms apparently was introduced into Rome only in the 12th century.
In the Middle Ages the rite of the palms had acquired a distinctly dramatic form. The procession would go from one church to another.

In the beginning there was no blessing provided for the palms. But by the Middle Ages there developed an elaborate rite. The emphasis was placed on the palms themselves as a sacramental and the whole ceremony was obscured. Pius XII simplified the blessing and made the triumphant procession in honor of Christ the King as most important.

The new rite encourages having the blessing outside the church or even in another building so that a real procession can be had.

With the beginning of Mass the whole mode of the celebration changes and is in striking contrast to the triumphant procession which came before the Mass. The Mass takes on a somber tone as we meditate on the Passion/Death of Christ.

Why veil the cross and other images during Passiontide?

It has been a custom of the Roman Catholic Church to veil the crosses and the images of the saints from the 5th Sunday of Lent until Easter. At St. Gertrude sacred images will be veiled only during Holy Week, after the celebration of Palm Sunday. This period of veiling sacred images is known as Passiontide. The crosses, statues, and pictures of our Lord and the saints on the altar and throughout the church, with the exception of the Way of the Cross, may be covered with a violet veil.

The practice of veiling the crucifix and statues during Passiontide expresses the humiliation to which our Savior subjected Himself, of hiding Himself when the Jews threatened to stone Him, as related in the Gospel of Passion Sunday [John 8:59, They took up stones to cast at him, but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple]. As Christ hid himself from the rage of the Jewish authorities, so now he is hidden from the world in preparation for the mysteries of his passion. We veil the images in the church so as to focus on the reality of Christ’s suffering and NOT on his glory, which is revealed in the saints. Or, in other words, in the season of our Lord’s passion, all the strength of our devotion should be directed to the Cross of Christ. We focus on the cross as an instrument of humiliation, torture and suffering, NOT on the Triumph of the Cross as revealed in the saints.

In his passion, our Savior’s divinity is almost totally eclipsed, so great was his suffering. For this reason we veil the images of the saints in these final days of Lent ― hiding Christ’s faithful servants under the sad purple cloth. For, if the glory of the Master be eclipsed, the servants should not appear either.

As we enter into the dark days of our Lord’s Passion, the liturgy becomes heavy, especially during Holy Week. At the Easter Vigil, we are in pitch blackness, without instruments, until the proclamation of Our Lord’s Resurrection, at which time the lights are lit, the bells ring, instruments play, and veils are removed. All is Light in the glory of our Lord’s Triumph = His victory over sin and death.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week

During these days Christians reconcile with God and with one another in preparation for the solemn Easter Triduum. For all Roman Catholics, the Sacrament of Penance should be celebrated. The penitential season of Lent, begun on Ash Wednesday, is coming to an end. We are planning on six confessors Monday- Wednesday of this week beginning at 7:00pm, until all confessions are heard.

Please plan to join us for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Day Masses. The schedule is printed in this weekend’s bulletin.

A blessed Holy Week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor