Pastor's Corner 040614

posted Apr 16, 2014, 10:41 AM by Music Director

Lent is drawing to a close.  Soon we will embark on the holiest week of the Christian year, which is why it is called Holy Week.  So as is my custom, I’d like to take a closer look at the rich and beautiful celebrations of this glorious week, but with limited space I’ll do this over two weeks.  This week, let’s take a look at the first part of Holy Week which begins next Sunday.

The first day of Holy Week is called Passion Sunday.  Mass begins by recalling Jesus’ triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem.  We symbolically join the throngs of its citizens waving palm branches while singing “Hosanna,” a Hebrew word meaning “Pray, save us.” These gestures are rooted in ancient Semitic customs for welcoming a hero back among his people.  This is why this Sunday is often called “Palm Sunday.” 

Once we reach the Liturgy of the Word, however, the mood changes dramatically.  We now turn our attention to the prophecies of God’s “Suffering Servant” and how quickly those joyful cries of “Hosanna” turned to shouts of accusation and demand for Jesus’ crucifixion.  We listen attentively as the Lord’s Passion is described for us, this year according to St. Matthew’s version.  While it may seem odd to do this on the same Sunday we celebrate His triumphal entry, we do so because it isn’t possible for many people to attend the Good Friday service, and it is important that we reflect on this story at least once each year. 

Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, you may remember there were actually 2 Passion Sundays!  What we today call the Fifth Sunday of Lent was called the “First Sunday of the Lord’s Passion” or simply “Passion Sunday.”  The Gospel assigned that day was taken from John 8:46-59, in which Jesus assails the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy.  They take up rocks to stone Him, but Jesus flees into hiding.  In imitation of this, statues and crucifixes were covered and remained that way until the Easter Vigil.  Many churches still observe this custom, while others, including ours, follow the contemporary rubric of covering them only from the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday until the Vigil.

Each year on the Tuesday of Holy Week, our diocese celebrates the Chrism Mass, which will be celebrated at St. Agnes Church (Our Lady of Hope Parish) in Blackwood at 3:00 PM.  All the people of the Diocese are invited to attend.  In this liturgy, the clergy renew their commitment to the people of God in the sacrament of Holy Orders, and 3 different oils are blessed by the Bishop and distributed to the faithful to bring home to their parishes. They are made of pure olive oil, and with different prayers prayed by the Bishop over each, they become: the Oil of Catechumens (used to prepare those to be baptized), Sacred Chrism (used to anoint the newly-baptized; to confirm the baptized in the gifts of the Holy Spirit; to consecrate the walls of new church buildings and new altars; and to ordain priests and bishops), and Oil of the Sick (used to bless and strengthen the sick and the dying).  “Chrism” comes from the same Greek word, “Christos,” from which we derive the word “Christ.”  It means “the anointed.”  Jesus is called “the Christ” (“Messiah” in Hebrew) because He was anointed (i.e. chosen by God) to bring salvation to the world.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the second half of Holy Week, including the sacred Triduum and Easter.  I hope these explorations help you to fully enter into the beauty, the wonder, and the mystery of God’s saving work accomplished in the person of Jesus, our Savior and our God!


In His Love,

Fr. Mike