The Catholic Church does an excellent job in presenting the redemptive act of Christ in a powerful sensual manner. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, each of these liturgies offers so much stimuli to the human mind. So much is going on that one has no choice but to absorb each detail in.
I have always been a philosopher since I could remember. Thinking about thinking has been a hobby of mine that has sometimes driven my friends and relatives to drink (joking). I love to think about things and contemplate them. Here are some thoughts that came to mind while serving at Holy Week’s liturgies.
On this day, the visual of the people with palms brings about a reflection of that day when the people in Jerusalem praised their King Christ. I was reminded of how hypocritical we all can be. We praise God and then offend Him with our sins. God is indeed patient with each of us. He calmly rides into our lives only to be rejected by us every time we sin.
During chrism Mass, the bishop consecrates the oils that will be used to celebrate the sacraments throughout his diocese. The display of the oils brought to mind something that we often take for granted – cooking. Most of us use oil to cook in our homes. Oil in a sense is the first ingredient in most meals. It is not strange that oil would be the first “ingredient” to prepare us for the banquet that are the Sacraments of the Church.
During Holy Thursday, we commemorate the Last Supper of Christ. Christ gathered His disciples and had the Passover seder. Priests also renew their promises during this Mass. During this Mass, the washing of the feet takes place. This brings about many thoughts for meditation. I visualize Christ, the Son of God and second person of the Blessed Trinity washing the feet of men who are sinners. This is a powerful image and one that is unique to religion in general. The gods of other religions have man as the slave of the deity. In Christianity, God is the servant. This is a very powerful image. The transference of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose is another powerful image. It literally feels like Christ was arrested and taken away from us. The mood is a somber one that brings about the reflection of what life is without God. We are alone, sad, and hopeless.
Good Friday’s Liturgy of the Passion is one that while being long, brings about many instances for reflection. The reading of the Word and the participation of the people makes the Passion come alive in the church. You get the sense of actually being there and watching Jesus before Pilate. The unveiling of the wood of the Cross is another instance of reflection. The mystery of the Cross is something we often wrestle with. Why did God have to die? Why on a Cross? The unveiling reminds us of this mystery. The sight of an empty church with statues and images covered, no crucifixes, the Tabernacle open and no candle light, not even from the Sanctuary lamp is a reflection in itself. Without Christ, the Church is nothing. The Church loses its beauty without Him.
Some Latino and Italian parishes have processions where people dress up like the main persons in the Passion. They reenact the Stations of the Cross vividly that you actually feel like you’re there 2000 years ago. Each station brings about a reflection. The ones that stood out to me were the times Jesus fell. I began to think, Jesus fell 3 times. Once for the past, present and future. He took on the sins of each time period, but they did not keep Him down. Christ stood back up. The stations of Simon the Cyrene and Mary, Christ’s mother approaching Christ are also powerful images to reflect on. Mary embracing her son is a very powerful images. Sometimes, kids get ashamed of being around their moms. Here we have Mary embracing her Son, a grown man. This image shows the importance of the love between parents and children. Jesus was not ashamed or embarrassed of having His mom around. Also, the mere fact that Mary could embrace God in such a way is awesome. Furthermore, God does not need anyone, yet Simon helps Him carry His cross. When we grow in grace and get closer to Christ, we alleviate His suffering just like Simon approached Christ and helped him carry the Cross.
The Easter vigil has so many instances for reflection. The priest lights fire outside of the Church and prepares the Paschal candle. The fire reminds us that Christ is the light. Without light, nothing can survive in this world. If the Sun were to turn off one day, our world would become a dark frozen wasteland. Similarly, without Christ, we become nothing more than animals acting out our instinctual habits. The image of a darken Church shows this. Without Christ, the Church is dark and lonely. It is a useless building just there on a street block. The procession with the Paschal candle reminds us that Christ is the light. With the small flame of this candle, we are able to see the Church’s inside. The visual of the people lighting their candles from the Paschal candles is awesome. It shows Christ’s light being transferred to each of us. As each candle is lit, its owner’s face becomes visible. We are no longer dark images in a dark Church. We have our image restored to us via the light of Christ and rightfully so since we are made in God’s image. The gloria and the ringing of the bells shows us the joy the church has knowing that Christ has risen. The catechumens are received into the church showing that the Church has new life in the risen Christ.
The Church looks beautiful again. It has flowers, the statues and images are uncovered, the Blessed Sacrament is there. The Church has life once again. It is not an empty dark building. Similarly, we have new life in Christ. We all renew our Baptism promises.
Holy Week is indeed Holy. If you have not participated in the above liturgies. I recommend that you do next year. The Liturgies for this week are so rich in symbolism and visuals.