Tag Archives: Holy Week

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord A Dual Feast

April 12, 2019

0 Comments

The Dual Nature of the Feast.  Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.  It is a dual feast.  It has traditionally been known as Palm Sunday because the Mass begins with a gospel text that recounts how palm branches were used to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, and because palm branches are blessed at the beginning of Mass and carried in procession as part of the Entrance Rite.  It has also traditionally been known as Passion Sunday because the Passion Narrative is proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word.

A Unique Aspect of the Palm-Passion Liturgy.  This is the only Sunday of the entire liturgical year in which two separate gospel passages are read at the same Mass.  The liturgy begins with a special opening rite with the gospel proclamation of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as the crowd waved palms and cried out, “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Year A, Mt 21:1-11; Year B, Mk 11:1-10 or Jn 12:12-16; Year C, Lk 19:28-40). At the regular gospel time the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is proclaimed in its entirety (Year A, Mt 26:14-27:66; Year B, Mk 14:1-15:47; Year C, Lk 22:14-23:56).

One Mass with Two Distinct Moods.  The Mass has two very different sentiments or feeling tones, jubilation, then lamentation.  The opening scene is festive.  As Jesus mounted the donkey the excitement rose to a fever pitch.  The crowd swelled.  Full of joy, the people waved their palm branches with gladness, laid their cloaks on the roadway with reverence, marched next to Jesus in happiness, and raised their voices with exuberance as they confidently proclaimed Jesus as the “Son of David” (Mt 21:9), “the prophet” (Mt 21:11), and their King.  As the Mass begins with the procession with palms, we honor Christ as our King and sovereign Lord, and the procession with palms into or around the church is intended to recapture the energy and enthusiasm of Jesus’ regal cortege from Bethpage down the Mount of Olives and through the gates of the Holy City, Jerusalem.

An Abrupt Change.  Only moments later there is a jarring mood shift.  The former exhilaration comes to an abrupt halt.  The tone suddenly becomes dark and dreary with the proclamation of four somber readings.  The first reading is the third Suffering Servant Canticle of Isaiah (Is 50:4-7) with the sad words, “I gave my back to those who beat me” (Is 50:6a);  the Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 22, the first portion which foretells a chilling aspect of the passion of the Messiah, “They have pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps 22:17b); and the second reading is the Christ Hymn with the grim statement that Jesus became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8b).  The culmination of the Liturgy of the Word is the proclamation of the Passion, the painful account of how Jesus was scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed, crucified, and killed.  This bitter account causes our hearts to ache with sorrow.

The Paschal Mystery.  Holy Week begins with mourning, weeping, and lamentation.  The Cross is the most ignominious of all deaths, yet it is through the Cross that Jesus ultimately triumphed as our King and Savior.  This solemn week is filled with anguish and grief, but it ends with an ever greater mood shift, the joy and exaltation of the Resurrection and Easter.

Continue reading...

Top Holy Week and Easter Movies

March 31, 2015

2 Comments

he took her to a movie. when I was a bird Creative Commons

© Creative Commons

With the premier of the movie “Killing Jesus” on National Geographic Chanel receiving over 3.7 million viewers, it got me curious about what movies people watch during Holy Week and Easter.

I took a very unofficial poll with friends and family and the results were:

1. The 10 Commandments – I think most of us grew up watching this every Easter.  Charlton Heston will forever be Moses in my mind.  One response I got from a friend was:  “It always seemed to be on TV during Holy Week growing up, but our bed times were so early we never saw them get out of Egypt.” Spoiler alert – They did!

2. The Passion of the Christ – No surprise here.  An absolutely great movie and so moving.  When my husband and I saw it at the theater we weren’t able to speak for hours. It hits you so deeply. A great choice to prepare you for Good Friday.  Not family friendly for little ones though.

3. Jesus of Nazareth – Full disclosure here – this is not a movie but a mini- series so you need to put in the time commitment! Worth the effort though as one friend said, ” The kids always looked forward to the movie time with the whole family and it generated many questions and good spiritual conversations during the three days to Easter.”

4. Jesus Christ Super Star – My personal favorite, but my husband and I really like the new 2012  Live Arena Tour version, but the 1973 version is great too. The singing is amazing!

5. Godspell – A modern-day song-and-dance recreation of the Gospel of St. Matthew. I always thought this was a hippy version of the gospel.  Great songs and imagery.

6. The Prince of Egypt – Animated version. Great for kids.

7. The Greatest Story Ever Told – The title says it all – How else do you describe the life of Christ?  An epic film but you better settle in as it is 225 minutes long.

Now to some of the more unusual responses.

8. Lilies of the Field – Who can forget Sidney Poitier as a traveling handyman who becomes the answer to the prayers of nuns who wish to build a chapel in the desert. Catch this video of Sidney Poitier singing Amen.  I dare you not to smile and sing along!

9. Quo Vadis  – The movie or the Mini-series. I have never seen either but the description is: A fierce Roman general becomes infatuated with a beautiful Christian hostage and begins questioning the tyrannical leadership of the despot Emperor Nero.

10. For Greater Glory -A chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-1929); a war by the people of Mexico against the atheistic Mexican government. Not an outright religious movie but a story of bravery and a fight for religious freedom.  Given our current events in the news lately, this is something we all need to be thinking and talking about.

11 The Robe – One of my personal favorites.  A Roman official who was present at Christ’s crucifixion wins Jesus’ garment.  He becomes tormented at the memory of the man and his death on the cross. He eventually goes on a quest to relieve his torment but find he can only find peace in Jesus.

12. Groundhog Day – This was probably the strangest response.  It is the story of a weatherman who has to relive the same day over and over again until he changes his ways. My friend commented: “This is thinking a little out of the box, and its not a religious movie, but Groundhog Day has underlying Easter-related themes.” and another said “I guess I generally like any movie that has “moral to the story.” I like to see the guys in the white hats win!” All good reasons to include it in your Easter movie list.

What is your favorite Easter and Holy Week movie?  Share it below in the comments.

Addendum – I haven’t seen the “Killing Jesus” movie yet so I can make no recommendation.  They do have an awesome website though! Explore it here.

Continue reading...

The Catholic Church in the News

April 12, 2014

0 Comments

The Catholic Church has been in the news a lot lately and for the most part the only reporting has been bad news. But there is a story a local paper decided to run that probably won’t be picked up by the big media stations.
It is a story I almost missed.
I had the oppourtunity to attend daily Mass at my local parish and Catholic High School. I am normally not around for daily Mass at home, but I had an appointment in town so I thought I would make the effort to go. I almost did’t. I was running late, my hair was still wet from my shower and I needed to prepare for my meeting, but since it was daily Mass I figured I had time to attend and still be able to run back home to get ready.

What happened at that Mass was a special grace that I was blessed to be witness to.

When I showed up at the church their was a hearse sitting out front. My first thought was: Oh no, what is going on? Mass will probably take longer. I may be late for my appointment.
The Catholic High School Mass was was hosting a funeral. A funeral for a woman I did not know and a woman none of the students at the school knew. She was a woman who had recently died and had very little family left to attend her funeral.
It was a beautiful witness of a community of people reaching out to a member of their own to fulfill the corporal and spiritual works of mercy of praying for and burying the dead.
Someone alerted the local small town paper and they decided to cover the story.
I urge you to read it. You can find it here:

http://www.southernminn.com/faribault_daily_news/news/article_5124e564-21ed-5721-83ed-1ebde6c60e06.html

Photo Jace Smith/Faribault Daily News

Photo Jace Smith/Faribault Daily News


Grab a box of Kleenex. There was not a dry eye in the house.

As beautiful as this story is, there are others like it happening every day. Most don’t make the news. They are the stories of good and faithful priest and parishioners doing the good works of being good Christians. Since the media usually doesn’t report these – it is up to us to see them – everyday.
See them and be a part of them.

As we enter into Holy Week, be observant of the good works around you and when you gather with family on Easter remember to share the GOOD News of our beautiful church.

Continue reading...

How the Early Church Commemorated Christ’s Passion and Resurrection

April 4, 2012

0 Comments

Some Triduum traditions date back to the Early Church--and some don't. Photo/Daniel Leininger Licensed under Creative Commons

If you’re looking forward to observing Holy Week and Easter as I am, hopefully you also see this as a good opportunity to grow in faith. Another aspect of the Triduum that I love is the tradition that shapes our prayer, worship and family customs during this important time.

This year marks the 1,979th time (approximately) that Christians have commemorated Holy Week and Easter.  That’s almost two millennia of celebrations involving hymns, incense and readings of the Passion, not to mention Easter lilies, ham and Peeps.

The early Christians unfortunately had no Peeps but they did have some prayerful and interesting ways of commemorating these holiest days of the year. Some of their customs have become part of our tradition and some of them are no longer practiced.

Fasting was an important part of the Early Church’s Holy Week observances. Second century Christians practiced an absolute fast from food for the 40 hours before Easter and a third century account indicates that some during that time fasted from food throughout Holy Week. It was the norm to fast on Holy Saturday, the hinge between the seasons of penance and Easter.

Walking in Jesus’ Steps

Some interesting details about Holy Week in Jerusalem are found in a document called the Pilgrimage of Egeria dating to about the year 388.

Christians began the week on Saturday evening before Palm Sunday in Bethany with dinner and the Gospel reading of the anointing of Christ’s feet. The next day they assembled at the Mount of Olives for hymns and readings, and then processed to Jerusalem with palms and branches.

On Holy Thursday, Christians attended the liturgy late in the afternoon and again traveled to the Mount of Olives where they commemorated Jesus’s agony and arrest all night. On Good Friday, they venerated a relic of the true Cross in the morning and commemorated the Passion for three hours in the afternoon. On Friday night clergy and laity who were strong enough held another vigil.

Another early Holy Week tradition that has endured is the Tenebrae (Latin for shadows or darkness) service. On the evening or early morning of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Christians of various denominations chant or recite psalms and readings while a series of candles is gradually extinguished leaving the church in darkness. At Catholic services, readings are from the Liturgy of the Hours. The tradition of putting out lights at the service dates back to the fifth century.

Baptism and Fire at the Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil was an all-night celebration during the Church’s first six or seven centuries, as sometimes hundreds and even thousands of catechumens were baptized at once.

The vigil blessing of new fire, during which Christians lit lamps, candles and the paschal candle, may have led St. Cyril of Jerusalem to comment that the night was bright as day. The Roman emperor Constantine illuminated Rome during the vigil with lamps and huge torches.

In the eighth century when the Church began administering the sacrament of baptism on Saturday morning instead of Saturday evening, Catholics in France, Germany and other countries developed a two-part ceremony to celebrate the Easter Feast on Sunday.

First, at midnight before Easter morning in the dark church the clergy brought the Cross from the sepulcher to the high altar. Candles were lit and the congregation processed solemnly with the cross through the church, the cloister, or cemetery. When they returned to the church, participants sang a hymn symbolizing Christ’s victorious entry into purgatory and hell.

Reenacting the Easter Story

Then before dawn on Easter Sunday, two priests representing the holy women went to a place designated as the empty tomb where another cleric representing the angel announced the Lord’s Resurrection. The first two priests brought the message to the choir prompting two other priests impersonating Peter and John to run to the tomb. Finding it empty, they showed the congregation the linen that had wrapped the body. These reenactments have been the basis for many Easter plays.

Whatever traditions you keep, I pray that during this 1,979th Triduum we may enter more deeply into the mysteries of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. Finally, I hope this much-loved Paschal homily by St. John Chrysostom inspires you.

Blessed Holy Week and Easter!

Continue reading...