The season of Lent has finished with the beginning of Holy Week, the story of which contains the entire range of human feelings – joy, celebration, suffering, doubt, betrayal, conviction, anger, despair, confusion and hope, but it is love which triumphs in the end, writes Christopher Saunders, Bishop of Broome.
The Easter celebrations are a sacred time to commemorate God’s saving action poured out for us through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ. They remind us that Christ who died for us has also risen for us and has passed from our world to his Father. The Church remembers and places before the faithful all the elements of the Easter story.
The Sacred Triduum begins with the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday night followed by the remembrance of the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday. The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday is a joyous Liturgy that proclaims our Easter faith: Christ lives! In him we find the promise of everlasting life.
Easter Sunday morning continues the recounting of the mystery of the empty tomb. And while the tomb may be empty our hearts are full of gratitude to God for this event that joins us to the resurrected Christ, giving us a loving purpose and a blessed opportunity to praise Him faithfully.
The Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper brings into focus that exquisite relationship between Eucharist and service. The Lord, we recall, bowed low, and while kneeling in the manner of a slave, he washed the feet of his disciples.
This extraordinary act of humility exacted a truth that riveted itself in the minds of the early believers, namely that: I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you. John 13: 15 If we do not wash each others feet, he warns us, we cannot have anything in common with him.(John 13: 8) In other words, if our relationship with God and with one another is not to be distorted, it has to be based on true humility and service.
And while there are distinctions based on functions in the celebration of the Mass nonetheless there is an equality among us that should never be submerged or forgotten. We, the Baptized, assemble to pray the Mass together!
The Mass which is offered commemorates the death of the Lord while at once recognizing that the presence in our sacred Thanksgiving is that of the risen Lord. Do this is in memory of me, he said. And we do remember. We remember how his death and resurrection has saved us.
And we remember that he has given us a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.( John 13:34) We leave with the word of God ringing in our ears and we are strengthened in our communion with one another in the fullness of a loving relationship with God.
On Good Friday, in accordance with tradition, the altar in every church is completely bare, devoid of decoration; almost cold, like a tomb. We gather to listen to The Word including the gospel of the passion, an invocative yet stark account which transports us into Jesus’ world of humiliation, suffering and complete sacrifice.
The reading of the Passion simply finishes without the usual conclusion indicating that there is more of the story to come. Quite plainly, Jesus’ death is not the end of God’s promise to redeem us. The resurrection is yet to be remembered in our ritual. As we venerate the Cross, that most powerful symbol of sacrificial love, we come, all of us, the broken and the sinful, in humility looking to be forgiven and lifted up in grace.
The Holy Saturday night vigil bursts forth with the joyous news that he lives. “Dear Friends in Christ, on this most holy night, when our lord Jesus Christ passed from death to life, the Church invites her children throughout the world to come together in vigil and prayer.”
The Easter fire is lit and from there light is spread candle to candle. His resurrection has dispelled the darkness of fear and despair and the Christian community now sings with conviction “Christ our Light”. We affirm our belief, he who has risen from the dead dies no more. Through that truth our salvation is assured.
On Easter Sunday the prayer of the Liturgy continues in faithfulness: Let our celebration today raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us. (From the Liturgy Holy Saturday)
This Good News is not something we can keep to ourselves as our own secret treasure. We have an obligation to share it with others in our world, including those who continue to be bewildered and puzzled about who they are and what is the purpose of life.
So many people in our comfortable society simply want the good times to continue as in some hedonistic pursuit of happiness irrespective of any greater values. Sadly, they cannot comprehend the Cross as a joy or find wonder in Christ’s passion or hope in his resurrection.
Is it any surprise that at times our nation portrays a doubtful moral worth or turns its back so readily on the poor, the marginalized and the refugee? By what we say and do we can help others to discover the Spirit that enkindles the fire of Divine love. The Grace of Easter enables us to reach our potential to be more fully human as God has intended.
The three days of Holy Week are for us a profession in faith. We are reminded individually and corporately of God’s promise come true in Christ. In him, hope is real, not imagined. God’s merciful love is shown to be without limit.
Life is indeed for us the rich and gracious gift God willed it to be. May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of the bread and follow him in his risen life. (From the Liturgy Easter Sunday.)