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April 5, 2009
Holy Week and its true Significance
This week we celebrate the most sacred time of the liturgical year – Holy week. This is the week we are given to reflect and take in the greatest even in Christian history. We call this event the Paschal Mystery. We experience the event in a three day series of liturgical celebrations called the Triduum. The event begins on Holy Thursday evening with the celebration of the Last super and it ends with the celebration of the resurrection on Easter.
The problem with this three day celebration is that many Christians do not understand its meaning or its purpose. This is not surprising since the words Paschal Mystery are not in our everyday vocabulary. The meaning of the expression is simply that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mystery to us. God’s ways are not our ways. Why God chose to bring us to life with Him in this way will always remain a mystery. The term Paschal refers to the notion that Jesus was the sacrificial lamb. He is literally the means by which we pass-over from the death of sin into New Life and thus are saved.
Another issue is the eternal problem of a crowded schedule. We simply do not have the time to come to church three days in a row. So, we choose one and we choose the “best” one, Easter Sunday. Easter is the one with the most fanfare and the most joy and exhilaration. Coming to church to celebrate the resurrection when we neglected to go through the crucifixion is a little like going to the wedding party without attending the wedding. It’s better than nothing but the depth of participation is sadly wanting.
Lastly, the problem that is probably at the heart of the matter is the fact that the suffering and death which begins on Holy Thursday are actually, when taken seriously, a serious threat to our way of life. When we reflect on the meaning of the entire Mystery which includes the Passion, Death and Resurrection, (these events can never be taken separately), we can be seriously threatened. When this happens we tend to do what everyone does by nature, we go into denial or we run away. Fr. O’Connor writes that the paschal mystery serves as a threat to the security, ambition, need for control and prideful pretence of every Christian who dares to enter into the Mystery.
In short, the notion of the paschal mystery deals with the word none of us are comfortable with, i.e., surrender. The idea that Jesus had to surrender his will and give up his young life in order to follow the saving plan of God is very distasteful to us. We want to be in control of our lives. We want to be secure and comfortable and we want to believe that this will last forever. We abhor the idea of thinking that we are mortal creatures whose lives are in God’s divine plan.
As we go through our daily lives, says O’Connor, we all experience living with competition, independence, rivalry, envy, feuds, holding grudges, strife etc. We hate these elements of our lives but we know them well and we are often addicted to one or more of them. We know there is a better way but we fear losing our control of our personal “space”. Attending the Triduum on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday allows us to reflect on our lives and to ask ourselves where we stand in relation to the Mystery. Where do you stand?
Lorette P. Nault