Monthly Archives: April 2014

Saint John Paul II and Me…

This morning the Church had the joy of proclaiming Saint two very important figures of the 20th Century: Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, important for both the Church and the World. In these last days it has become very popular on the Web to share stories experiences of both holy Popes. Here is mine.

YoungPope

Photograph by Yousuf Karsh?

I was born in the last of years of Pope Paul VI, so I cannot say that Pope John Paul II was the only Pope I had, but he certainly was the first that I knew. I cannot recall how I first heard of the this Saint, but I do know that I have long had a fascination with him and deep affection for him. I remember, as a young boy, reading over and over again a simple cartoon book about the life of the new Saint. I was captivated, even then, with his simplicity, his joy, his energy, and his capacity to trust in God despite all of the sufferings and challenges he faced in his life. And what perhaps struck me the most was his closeness to the youth, and this was evident even before World Youth Day.

When St. Pope John Paul II toured Canada in 1984, my family did not miss our chance to pray with this holy man, with this great leader of our Faith. I vaguely remember getting up very early to drive out to the site, which was in Moncton (New Brunswick), nearly 3 hours away, but I do vividly remember the rest of that cold and wet September morning.

Two of my brothers and I, dressed up in our Fall mud suits and covered with black garbage bags to keep us dry, had a grand time running in and around the great crowd. How we never got lost is a miracle in itself!

It seems to me that my family had a fairly decent place, and I remember my brothers and I rushing to the ropes to see the Pope enter the field in his Popemobile. What excitement we felt! Us little boys, not more than 5-9 years old, living in the middle of nowhere, were welcoming the Holy Father! What excitement and joy!

I don’t remember much from the rest of the Mass, but I do recall hearing his young and vibrant voice during the Homily. That day, I am sure, bolstered my interest in the Pope and in the Church.

A few years later, in the Spring of 1988, now living in Western Canada, Bishop Blaise Morand (now emeritus) of Prince Albert, mentioned in his Homily at my Confirmation that he would be going to Rome for his ad limina in the following October. I got really excited about this!

JP2MedalMom and Dad had given me as a Confirmation gift a beautiful medallion of Pope John Paul II, and I was thrilled to carry that image with me. Now, with the Bishop’s announcement I was at one degree of separation with this great man of the Church!

In the boldness of my youth I approached the Bishop after Mass and asked him if he would be able to bring my new medallion to the Pope and ask him to bless it for me. (I’m not sure I would have that kind of courage today!) Bishop Blaise, in his casual and gruff fashion replied, “Sure! I won’t take it with me tonight, because I’ll probably lose it, but send it to me later along with a letter explaining what you want, and I’ll do my best.” Well, that made my day!! In fact, it’s practically the only thing I remember about my Confirmation!

Over the next few months I prepared. Again, in my courageous youth, I took the framed picture of the Pope that we had in our home and drew a copy of it, and included it with my letter and sent these to Bishop Blaise along with my medal. Now, I I never took a picture of my drawing to prove it, but according to my memory, it was quite good, if I do say so myself ;-).

A couple of months later, I received a padded envelope in the mail. Bishop Blaise had made good on his promise. His short letter explained that he did indeed take my medal to be blessed by Pope John Paul II. And not just that, the Bishop also sent me a Rosary blessed by Pope John Paul II. I promptly started wearing my medal and using my new Rosary. Now whether the medal was blessed en masse with the crowds or whether the Rosary was given to the Bishop (instead of for me by the Pope), it really doesn’t matter. These two items have been a symbol of my admiration for a man who gave his whole life to Jesus out of love for God and for others; they are two of my most precious possessions.JP2Rosary

While I was never able to meet Saint John Paul II – even when I worked on staff at WYD 2002 –, this exchange with him through Bishop Blaise gave me a profound and precious connection with this holy man. From that moment, I believe that he and I have shared a bond. He was always a role model for means an inspiration, and when I entered the Seminary in 2002, I did so to become a Priest according to the heart and love of John Paul II. And every time I had a hard time in my journey toward the Priesthood I turned to my picture of my beloved friend to ask for his prayers and his support.

When he died in 2005, I felt as though I had lost a close friend. But I also knew that we were now closer than before. I look forward to the day when I will meet him face to face when I, too, am called home to the Father to rejoice in the reward of His faithful servants.

While I don’t wear the medallion (it stains my shirts) nor carry this Rosary in my pocket anymore (I lost it for a couple months in 2012), today I will carry them both with me in honour of my friend and intercessor. Saint John Paul II, pray for us; pray for me!

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Homily – Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday Deacon Ken will be preaching so I don’t have an ‘original’ Homily to post, so here’s last year’s Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday:

*        *        *

DivineMercy05My 17th birthday started off as a really crummy day.

I slept-in and missed both the school bus and the car ride, so I had to take public transportation, and that meant a long bus ride and a long walk. A few blocks away from the school, as I was walking and sulking in my misery, a quick thought came to mind: What if God didn’t exist?

So in my sour mood I asked God what it would be like if He didn’t exist. For a split second I felt a profound emptiness: a sensation that I can only describe as total darkness and hopelessness. At that very moment I decided I never wanted to live without God, and that I never wanted to experience that again, ever!

While it wasn’t quite as significant as putting my finger in the wound of Christ, this was a turning moment for me in my life. In my unhappiness that morning, God showed me that He existed; He showed me that He loved me, and that only in Him could I have hope; only in Him could I have life. For me, that was a gift of His mercy.

Today we end the Easter Octave with a solemn celebration of Christ’s Mercy, the mercy that drove Him to reach out to us in our sinfulness; the mercy that led Him to lay down His life on the Cross to atone for our sins.

This special feast in honour of Jesus’ Divine Mercy is rooted in the visions of St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish mystic of the early 20th century. In her visions, Jesus asked her to share with the world the tremendous love with which He invites us to be reconciled with Him:

Tell the world about My mercy and My love, [Jesus told Sr. Faustina]. The flames of mercy are burning me. I desire to pour them upon human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them! […] Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to my merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace.

Tell [all people], My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls (Diary, 1074).

When Jesus offered His life on the Cross out of love for us, He did so to free us from our sins, but not so that we could go on sinning as before! Jesus paid for our sins so that we might be free to live in His love, that we might receive His gift of mercy and allow it to transform our hearts and our lives. Christ’s mercy is a gift that we don’t deserve, but it’s one that He nonetheless extends to us, and He does so with great hope for us!

Jesus told us in the Gospels that He came to call sinners to repentance (cf. Lk 5:32; Mk 2:17). Well, if we want to receive His mercy and be freed from our sins, so as to live in His love and share in His life, we need to repent; we need to be sorry for our sins, and want to change; God’s mercy and grace will take it from there. But if we’re not sorry for our sins, then we’re left to ourselves; God never imposes His mercy and love upon us. A gift can only be offered, its reception can’t be forced; otherwise it’s no longer a gift.

Yes, Jesus died once and for all for the forgiveness of all sins, but this gift isn’t magic; forgiveness isn’t automatic: we need to be sorry for our sins. Without repentance, there can be no forgiveness!

Jesus 16As Jesus says in the book of Revelation, Behold, I am standing at the door, knocking. Jesus won’t force His way in. But as the verse continues: if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me (Rev 3:20). If we open our hearts to His mercy, Jesus will fill us with His love and grace, forgive us our sins, and strengthen us for holiness; He’ll share His victory with us so that it becomes our victory.

This is the feast we celebrate today on Divine Mercy Sunday; this is the gift that Jesus offers us on the Cross. And He continues to extend this same mercy to us today. That’s why the Risen Lord still bears in His body the marks of the Cross, the marks of His love, the marks of His mercy. His risen body testifies to His abundant mercy and love.

Moved by this mercy, may we come to rightly understand… by whose Blood [we] have been redeemed (Collect for the Mass), and by what great love we’re called to repentance. May we open our hearts to God’s grace so as to be transformed by His mercy and love, so that in turn, we might offer that same mercy to others, helping them to encounter Christ.

Eternal Father, [we] offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.

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Pastor’s Message — Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine_Mercy_ImgSince the year 2000, this second Sunday of Easter is for us a reminder of God’s infinite mercy. It follows the Triduum and of Easter Sunday because it’s necessarily tied to the great act of love by which Jesus showed us His infinite mercy (the Cross), and to which the Father in turn testified (the Resurrection).

This year’s Feast, however, takes on even more celebration as we rejoice in the canonisation of two great men, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, who poured out their lives to show and share the message of God’s divine mercy for us. To commemorate both celebrations, here are some thoughts put forth by both Saints.

St. Pope John XXIII (28 October 1958 – 3 June 1962)

St. Pope John XXIII (28 October 1958 – 3 June 1962)

John XXIII, on announcing the coming of Vatican Council II: “The divine Redeemer Jesus Christ [gave] the Apostles the mandate to preach the Gospel to all peoples, [and] made the comforting promise: ‘Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’ (Mt 28:20). This divine presence, which has been alive and active in all times in the Church, is noticeable above all in the gravest periods of humanity” (Humane Salutis, 1).

“Today the Church is witnessing a crisis underway within society. [An] immensely serious and broad tasks await the Church[:] It is a question… of bringing the perennial life-giving energies of the Gospel to the modern world” (HS, 3). “While distrustful souls see nothing but darkness falling upon the face of the earth, we prefer to restate our confidence in our Saviour, who has not left the world He redeemed” (HS, 4).

Pope John wrote this in 1959, in the shadow of two World Wars, the Korean War, and at the height of the Cold War, just months before the Cuban Missile Crisis. In his eyes, he was calling the Council to address these issues and present anew to the world the Church’s constant message of God’s Divine Mercy. For this reason, some has called it the ‘Council of Mercy’.

St. Pope John Paul II (16 October 1978 – 2 April 2005).

St. Pope John Paul II (16 October 1978 – 2 April 2005).

In his turn, Pope John Paul II, when establishing Divine Mercy Sunday, said: “[T]he risen Christ, who bears the great message of divine mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles in the Upper Room [said]: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ (Jn 20:21-23).

“Before speaking these words, Jesus shows his hands and his side. He points […] to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in his heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity. From that heart Sr. Faustina… will see two rays of light [which] represent blood and water” (Diary, 299).

Blood and water! We immediately think of the testimony given by… John, who [saw] blood and water flowing from [the side of Christ on the Cross] (cf. Jn 19:34). [T]he blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water [represents] Baptism [and] the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5; 4:14; 7:37-39).

“Divine Mercy reaches human beings through the heart of Christ crucified: ‘My daughter, say that I am love and mercy personified’, Jesus will ask Sr. Faustina (Diary, 1074). […] And is not mercy love’s ‘second name’ (cf. Dives in misericordia, 7), understood in its deepest and most tender aspect, in its ability to take upon itself the burden of any need and, especially, in its immense capacity for forgiveness?

“This consoling message is addressed above all to those who, afflicted by a particularly harsh trial or crushed by the weight of the sins they committed, have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give in to despair. To them the gentle face of Christ is offered; those rays from his heart touch them and shine upon them, warm them, show them the way and fill them with hope.” (Sunday, 30 April 2000).

Jesus, we trust in you!
Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, pray for us!!

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Homily – Easter Sunday 2014

Ac 10:34, 37-43
Ps 118         R/. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
Col 3:1-4
Jn 20:1-18

 Easter_Christ_is_risen

Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!! (R/. Truly He is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!!)

What joy we celebrate today, this (beautiful) Easter morning, as we gather in the light of the Risen Christ! [Christ], who for a little while was made lower than the angels, [but is] now crowned with glory and honour because of [His] suffering of death (Heb 2:9).

But it’s not because He died that we believe in Christ! Our faith in Christ doesn’t rest in His death; No, our faith rests in His Resurrection! As St. Paul wrote: If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (1 Cor 15:17). As Christians, our faith depends on the Resurrection of Christ; that’s why this is our most holy day of the year! Because, in fact Christ has been raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:20); God’s steadfast love has endured! His mercy is stronger than our weakness, greater than our sins; and His love is more powerful than even death itself. Thanks be to God! Alleluia! (R/. Alleluia!)

Christ’s victory over sin and death has been shared with us in faith through Baptism, when we were baptised into His death and Resurrection. Therefore, says St. Paul, we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Rm 6:4-5).

You see, Christ’s Resurrection is our resurrection; that’s why we rejoice today! By rising from the dead, Jesus raised us up with Him so that we might share in His eternal life. That’s why we can say that today is the day of our salvation; that’s why this our greatest feast! The risen Jesus has united us with God, and now we’re able to be in communion with the Father. Alleluia, indeed! (R/. Alleluia!)

That’s why St. Paul urges us in the second reading this morning to set [our] minds on things that are above not on things that are on earth, for [we] have died and [our] life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:2-3). Because of the Resurrection we now live in God, and so we can no longer live our lives as before, in sin and darkness; we have been redeemed!

The Resurrection has changed everything; we must now live according Christ’s light, according to His life. This means that we must love and respect each other; that we must forgive each other, and be patient with each other’s weaknesses; that we must honour the new life that Christ has merited for us, and be faithful to His love. This is what morality is all about; the moral life is about living according to Christ’s love for us.

But this isn’t always easy; we need God’s grace to live according to His love. That’s why He’s given us Confession and the Eucharist. These are the gifts He’s given us that flow from the Cross; these are the gifts of the Resurrection, the gifts Christ has given for our sanctification.

This year, as we renew our joy in the Resurrection and the hope of faith in Christ, may we also renew our commitment to follow Him with our whole heart. May we embrace the Cross that set us free, and live the life of faith, because Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!! (R/. Truly He is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!!) Amen.

 

A joyful and blessed Easter to you all!!

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Homily – Easter Vigil 2014

My dear brothers and sisters, we began our celebration tonight in the dark. This was to symbolise the darkness of sin in our lives, the darkness of our life without God, and the darkness of the death of Christ. Enveloped by darkness, there is no joy, no hope.

Vatican Easter VigilBut then the light arrived! To use the words that we usually associate with Christmas: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined (Is 9:2). Christ is our Light! And He has shone upon us! The light shines in the darkness, because the darkness did not overcome it (Jn 1:5). Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!! (Truly He is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!!)

This is what we celebrate on this most holy night! And we gather to rejoice in God’s overwhelming love and mercy: a mercy that’s far greater than our weakness, far stronger than our sin; and a love that’s much more powerful than even death itself: Jesus Christ, our mighty King has triumphed! [He] broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld (Exultet). This is our joy! This is our glory! O truly blessed night indeed! Alleluia!! (R/. Alleluia!!)

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And what a gift! For God has reconciled us with Himself despite our hardness of heart, despite our lack of effort, despite our sinfulness. In the darkness of our sins and of our distance from God, the Father sent His only begotten Son into the world to be our Light, so that we might find our way back home to Him. This is the history of salvation that we just relived in the readings: the story of God reaching out to mankind, not merely calling us back to Himself, but carrying us back.

Through each of the readings this evening, we remembered and relived God’s actions. But notice how the readings didn’t speak of our sins, of our fall away from God; rather they spoke of God’s love for us, of God’s concern for our wellbeing, of God’s work in bringing us back into right relationship with Himself. From our creation in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26, 27), to the fulfilment of His promise made to Abraham (Gen 22:16-18), to His promise to cleanse us from our idols (Ez 36:25), the readings spoke of God’s saving acts; we relive tonight not the history of our sins, but the history of our salvation!

And it’s in this salvation that we rejoice: in this free and undeserved gift of God’s love and mercy given to us in the person of Christ Jesus, through His Death and Resurrection!

So, in the words of the Exultet: Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness! May this flame of God’s light and love, represented by this Pascal Candle, be found still burning by [Christ] when He returns in glory.

Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!! (Truly He is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!!) Glory to God in the highest!! Amen.

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Homily – Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
Ps 116       R/. The cup of blessing that we bless is a sharing in the Blood of Christ.
1 Cor 11:23-26
Jn 13:1-15

 Last Sunday we began our journey of Holy Week by entering with Christ into His Passion. This evening, we begin the Triduum — the three days of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ — by rooting the events of these days in the Last Supper, because it’s in the Passover Meal that we come to encounter the meaning and purpose of the Cross.

In the first reading, we heard from the book of Exodus about the Lord’s command to offer a lamb of sacrifice, and to mark the homes of the faithful with the blood of the lamb so that they might be saved from death as the Lord passed over Egypt to free Israel from its slavery.

And the Lord also commanded Israel to celebrate this Passover meal each year so as to remember always the gift of liberation He had given them. Now, in the Jewish mind-set, to remember means to relive in a certain way the original events. Through reading the Scriptures, offering the sacrifice and sharing the Passover Meal, the generations to follow would become sharers in the Exodus and would recommit themselves to the Covenant the Lord had made with them.

It’s in this context of remembering and sharing the Passover Meal that we find ourselves tonight as we enter into the sacred mystery of the Passion of Jesus. In fact, beginning with the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem last Sunday, continuing on through tonight, tomorrow and Easter Sunday, we ‘remember’ the sacred sacrifice of Christ, who is the true Lamb of God, whose blood saves us from death and frees us from our slavery to sin. This is to what St. Paul was referring in the second reading when he repeated the words of the Lord, This cup is the new covenant in my blood (1 Cor 11:).

This is the context of the Last Supper, in which Jesus explains to us the meaning and purpose of His coming Passion and death. He is the true Passover Lamb, offered to God the Father for the salvation of His people. And it’s this self-offering as the Pascal sacrifice of the Covenant that Jesus is pointing to with the Washing of the Feet. He who is God, does not hesitate to humble Himself to serve us out of love and to lay down His life to save us. As St. Paul would later write: [Christ Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8).

That’s why the Last Supper can’t be separated from the Cross, because it’s only through the Cross that we can understand what Jesus meant when He said: this is my Body which will be given up for youthis is the chalice of my Blood… which will be poured out for you…(Words of Institution). Through these simple words, and through actual giving of His Body on the Cross, Jesus gave us the Eucharist as the memorial of His suffering and death (Collect of Corpus Christi, 2nd Edition), and consecrated His Apostles as His Priests to continue (or perpetuate) this same sacrifice, offered once and for all.

And this is what we celebrate each and every Mass! In the Eucharist, Jesus continues to give us His flesh, transforming by the Spirit this lowly bread and wine into His Body and Blood, so that we, too, might be marked by the Blood of the true Passover Lamb, saved from death and freed from our sins. Every time we celebrate the Mass we ‘remember’ and make present this one, saving Sacrifice and participate in it; that’s why we recite the Memorial Acclamation right after the consecration.

This is the great gift of Eucharist that the Lord has given us, that we might not perish but have eternal life (cf. Jn 6:27, 40, 47, 54), for [His] flesh is true food and [His] blood is true drink (Jn 6:55). This is what we’re ‘remembering’ in these sacred days as we relive these events in a mysterious way that makes us participants in the original events with Christ and His Apostles.

That’s why this ‘simple meal’ is such an important part of our life in Christ; because it’s through the Eucharist that Jesus continues His saving work in our lives today, freeing us from our sins and making us holy. And it’s for this same reason that we celebrate tonight the origins of the Priesthood, because at the Last Supper Jesus ‘ordained’ the Apostles to minister to the Church as He ministers, to serve as He serves, to offer the Sacrifice He offers. That’s why the Church has long said that the Priesthood was born of the Eucharist and for the Eucharist.

And the Lord’s command to wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14), given first to the Apostles themselves, is meant to say: ‘As Priests of the New Covenant, you are to serve in love, humbling yourselves as I have. Remember what I have told you: The greatest among you will be your servant (Mt 23:11; cf. Lk 22:26).’ [Washing feet was the job of a slave.]

By giving the Apostles a model of humble service, Jesus is pointing us to the reality that His Death on the Cross won’t be an accident, but a chosen and willed means of serving (and saving) His people. His Death on the Cross — the death of a criminal — will be His ultimate act of humility and service, made out of love. And it’s this sort of charity that Christ is commanding His Apostles to imitate, because by washing their feet, He’s preparing them for their sacred role as Priests called to serve others by loving them to the end (Jn 13:): to the end of time and to the end of their life, until there is nothing left to give.

But the Church also understands this commandment to ‘serve out of love’ to be for all of her children, not just her Priests. To humbly serve out of love for God and for neighbour is the hallmark of the Christian! And it’s for this very reason the Jesus gave us the Eucharist! He knew it wouldn’t be easy to love one another as He loves us (Jn 13:34; 15:12), and so He gave us the Eucharist to nourish and strengthen us for this mission, so that those who receive His Body and Blood might become more and more like Him: His flesh living in them, His Blood flowing in them.

The Priest, then, is to be an example to his brothers and sisters of this servant love, as well as the instrument of God’s salvation that perpetuates the mystery of His love for us. I ask you, then: pray for us Priests, that we might become ever greater and more fruitful instruments of God; that we might truly love you as Christ loves you. And pray also for more Priests, who will share with us the gifts of God’s grace and mercy, because, as the Prayer over the Offerings for today says, “whenever the memorial of this sacrifice is celebrated, the work of our redemption is accomplished”. May we hunger, then, not merely for ‘salvation’, but for salvation through Eucharist, and strive to love one another as Christ loves us. Amen.

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Holy Week 101

Sorry about the tardiness of this post… the week went by in a whirlwind…

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This Sunday we begin the most sacred liturgical time of the Church: Holy Week. We begin with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as we rejoice in His presence and hail Him King and Messiah, Hosanna in the highest! But as the liturgy of Passion Sunday intimates, we quickly turn from cheers to jeers, as this joy sours into hatred and Christ’s Passion.

Nonetheless, these are holy days, as “the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his life on earth” (no. 27), and these “days of Holy Week, from Monday to Thursday inclusive, have precedence over all other celebrations” (no. 28).

Passion Sunday (or Palm Sunday) shows vividly the contrast of the crowds, but also the connection between Jesus’ mission to save the world, His true Kingship and the Passion that He must undergo for the salvation of the world. This, in a way, sets the tone for the Paschal Triduum (triduum is Latin for ‘three days’).

“This time is called ‘the triduum of the crucified, buried and risen’; it is also called the ‘Easter Triduum’ because during it is celebrated the paschal mystery, that is, the passing of the Lord from this world to his Father. The Church, by the celebration of this mystery through liturgical signs and sacramentals, is united to Christ, her spouse, in intimate communion” (no. 38).

The Triduum begins with the Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, when we recall Christ’s institution of the Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the great mandatum (command) to love one another as He has loved us. This joyful moment then leads us into the Garden of Gethsemane to watch and pray with the Lord as He anticipates His Passion with fervent prayer.

In this same moment, as the Lord is arrested, we return to penance and begin the sacred fast and abstinence of Good Friday, “because the Spouse has been taken away” (see Mk 2:19-20). (For this same reason, after Mass on Thursday, the altar is stripped bare, and Mass cannot be celebrated again until the Vigil.) We are highly encouraged, if possible, to continue this fast and abstinence into Holy Saturday, “so that the Church, with uplifted and welcoming heart, be ready to celebrate the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection” (no. 39).

On Good Friday, “when ‘Christ our passover was sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7), the Church meditates on the Passion of her Lord and Spouse, adores the Cross, commemorates her origin from the side of Christ asleep on the cross, and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world” (no. 58). This is perhaps the most sombre Liturgy of the Church, as we reflect on the brutality of our sins and the love and mercy of God.

Silence, stillness, sorrow for sin, and gratitude to God are key elements of this Liturgy. These lead us to adore the Cross as an act of worship offered to Christ for His loving sacrifice. It is the only time we genuflect to something other than the Eucharist.

After the Liturgy, the altar is once again stripped bare; only the Cross remaining, with four candles, so that we might contemplate the mystery of the depth of Christ’s love for us (see Rom 5:8). The Cross is bloodied; Christ is dead; the temple is empty, the Tabernacle deserted… “On Holy Saturday, the Church is, as it were, at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his passion and death and on his descent into hell, awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting” (no. 73). We will not rejoice or celebrate again until the following night, when we gather for the Vigil.

The excerpts cited above are taken from Paschale Solemnitatis, the instruction on the preparation and celebration of the Easter feasts issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (1988).

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