Finally, we made it. The wait is over, and it has arrived. It is Holy Week, the holiest of all the weeks in the Church calendar. We anticipate it. We look ahead to it. We hope for it. But, are we ready for it?
With all the build up, there is no reason we should be unaware or unprepared. Yet some of us will still claim, that somehow we did not see the imminent arrival of Holy Week coming. Truth be told, it has been foreshadowed since the first chapters of the Gospel of Luke, and since the first pages of the Bible itself.
In the opening procession of Palm Sunday Mass, which begins Holy Week, the crowds cheered Jesus’ joyful entry into Jerusalem by proclaiming “glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38). This echoed the choirs of angels who, with similar ovations, pronounced Jesus’ jubilant entrance into our world at his birth (Luke 2:14). Furthermore, the appearance of an angel to Jesus during his passion at the Mount of Olives, and likewise to Mary before Jesus’ conception at Nazareth, again highlights how Christ’s trials of Holy Week are connected and suggested from the very beginning of Luke’s Gospel.
Even prior to the evangelist, the images of Holy Week are reflected all the way back to Genesis Chapter 2, with human beings banned from the paradise of the garden because of sin. Once more, we are able to recognize the link to the Palm Sunday Gospel, when we hear Jesus promise paradise to the penitent thief, and sin is finally conquered.
While it is possible, we may have missed these aforementioned prefigures that alerted us to the onset of Holy Week. Hopefully, our actions during the season of Lent leading up to this holy time, helped to prepare us. After all, our fasting was meant to enable us to drop a few of the excesses and clutter from our lives, and not merely to drop a few extra pounds from our waist. Our almsgiving should have attempted to fill the void of someone else, instead of filling our ego with a sense of self-importance. Our prayer was intended to draw us closer to Christ, rather than being something we discontinue as soon as Holy Week is over, and we have crossed it off our calendars.
This is because Holy Week is centered on the cross. These disciplines we have been practicing these forty days, were to become regular practices and parts of our daily existence. Forty represents newness and change, such as when God created a new covenant with Noah after forty days of rain, or when Jesus began his ministry after forty days in the desert. We too are supposed to be made new, after these forty days of Lenten trials.
It is our newness, our change, our transformation that signifies whether we are really ready for Holy Week. Being ready means being different than we were before before Lent. We should have been dying to the sinfulness and wickedness of our lives during these weeks of Lent, so we could be born again in God’s glory and mercy during these holiest of days.
Holy Week concludes with the Easter Vigil, where the Scriptures declare Jesus resurrected. He is no longer trapped in the tomb, having risen victoriously over this place of death. We are to follow his example and free ourselves from what binds us. We are to step out of the darkness of our lives, and walk with Christ into the light of the new day. We are to walk out into the world to spread the Good News with our words and with our actions.
This is Holy Week. It is now here. Are we ready for it?
For additional reading and reflections on Holy Week, click on the following links:
RCL Benziger mediation booklets, Lent, Year C
RCL Benziger’s resource “Take Up Your Cross”
USCCB March 26, 2016 Bible Reading
Scott Mussari is the Director of Faith Formation at St. Columban Church in Loveland, Ohio and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sign Up for Our E-Newsletter!