Accompanying Christ During His Last Days On Earth
Our Lord's promise to remain with us until the end of times finds
concrete expression in the Church's liturgical celebrations. There
Christ is present and makes available to us the fruits of his passion,
death and resurrection, through which he accomplished our salvation.
Our Lord's entrance into Jerusalem marks the beginning of these last days. In fervent expectation of the Messiah the people welcomed Christ into their city as the King of Israel, shouting "Hosanna" and waving palm branches. Only days later would the same crowd demand his death. In the liturgy of Palm Sunday, we commemorate these events. For us, however, Christ's solemn entrance into Jerusalem foreshadows his future glory and triumph as the risen Son of God. The account of his passion, read at Mass, reminds us that this triumph would only be won through his suffering and death.
This Jesus of Nazareth, hailed and then rejected, is truly the one who was sent "to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to give new sight to the blind and to set the downtrodden free". For this he was anointed by the Spirit, consecrated as Son and Servant of God. He continues his saving work today, and anoints and consecrates his people to make them sharers in his death and life. Oil and chrism, used in four of the seven sacraments, are the effective sign of his saving power. This sacred sign makes some bishops, some priests, but all powerful witnesses to Our Lord and servants of one another. At the Chrism Mass, therefore, oils and chrism are blessed for their sacred use, and bishop and priests renew their dedication to Christ and their commitment to serve.
With the Lord's Supper, shortly before his arrest and condemnation, the most remarkable events begin. Knowing what was about to happen, Christ wished to give his followers a memorial of his death and resurrection. Even while still among them, he gave himself to them as heavenly food and drink which would lead them to eternal life. The first Mass ever celebrated was the most awe-inspiring of all, where priest and sacred host were one and the same, just as on the cross the sacrifice was itself the one who sacrificed it. To this day, hidden under the external forms of bread and wine and veiled in the person of the priest, Christ makes present anew what he did once and for all on the altar of the cross. God is showing us the way to life through death to self and humble service. Washing his disciples feet, Christ gave us an example of true authority and power. This is the message of Holy Thursday night. After the events in the upper room Our Lord went to pray in the garden that God's will be done. We keep vigil with him after Mass in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and contemplate God's unbelievable love for us, a love till death.
It was late during the night that Jesus was arrested, betrayed by a friend, and brought before the Jewish leaders. Eager to do away with him, they accused him of blasphemy and presented him to the Roman authorities for civil trial. Uncertain of Jesus' offense, Pontius Pilate had the people decide, trusting they would call for his release. When this failed he complied with the wishes of the Jewish leaders and gave the order for Jesus to be crucified. His final ordeal was brutal and humiliating. As a mock-king he carried his own crossbeam and was crucified on Golgatha outside the walls of Jerusalem. He soon died of exhaustion. The gravity and sadness of these events are reflected in the austerity and simplicity of the Good Friday celebration. Prostrating themselves in front of the altar, the priests express grief and sorrow in the face of Christ's passion and death. Yet, this death has changed the world and has made salvation possible for all. Therefore, we fervently pray for the Church and all Christ's faithful, for those who do not believe and for those in any kind of need. All are called to glory in the cross of the Lord, which stands out as the sign of salvation. During the liturgy, this cross is being solemnly uncovered for the whole world to see and venerated by believers as their source of life. In silence and sorrow the body of the Lord was taken down from the cross and buried in a nearby tomb. In silence and sorrow the liturgy of Good Friday ends, leaving us watching, like the women, and waiting.
Holy Saturday - Easter Sunday
It was in the early morning hours of the third day when some of Jesus' disciples went to the tomb and found it empty. Only slowly, doubt gave way to belief and grief gave way to joy. But like the light of the Easter candle in the dark Church, the news of the resurrection spreads and enlightens the world. In the Easter Proclamation of the Vigil the Church calls us to rejoice and praise God. The one, who was dead, lives and sheds his light on all the world. This great deed had been announced and foretold by the people of the Old Testament, and one story after another is being given in the many readings of the night as a proof of God's power and will to save. The final proof, however is given in the account of the empty tomb, that is being proclaimed in the Gospel. An increasingly joyous and triumphant "Alleluia" ("Praise God") introduces the Good News. Dying Christ destroyed our death and rising he restored our life. Through him we have life in its fullness and can partake of it already now. That is why the Easter Vigil ever since has been a most appropriate time for candidates to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion. as these catechumens accept the faith, we renew our own baptismal promises and commit ourselves together with them to "keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts".
Posted 7 Oct 2006