By Fr Nicholas Okafor
WHEN I was a boy, I never looked forward to Holy Week.
It’s the longest week of all weeks for me. Any time the Holy Week approached I would be asking my mum “when is this long Sunday (Tridiuum) coming to an end, I discovered we are always in the Church these days”.
We would leave for Mass on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday around 10pm and come back around 1am or 1.30am. My mum would gently reply “you will be right after Mass on Easter Sunday”.
On the Easter Sunday that preceded my eighth birthday I had my First Holy Communion. Now I experienced a paradigm shift in my life.
The question from then changed from “when is this long Sunday coming to an end” to “when are we having the Tridiuum again”?
At this stage of my life Holy Week became something to be longed for with passion.
You are never tired of Holy Week if you know its meaning and position in our Catholic faith.
What is holy about Holy Week?
What makes Holy Week different from other weeks of the Church’s year?
Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. It is the last week of the 40-day season of Lent.
It is considered the most holy and most important of all the weeks in the Church’s liturgical calendar because it is in this week that we focus on the last week of Christ’s life, remembering especially His passion, death and resurrection which brings salvation to humanity.
This week is the source and summit of our Christian faith. It is the “Week of weeks”.
It is the week we celebrate our redemption, our movement from slavery to freedom.
Holy Week begins with Passion or Palm Sunday which recalls the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into the city of Jerusalem.
This day takes its name from the fact that as Jesus approached Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9, the huge crowd that followed Him carried palm branches as they praised Him as “Son of David”.
It’s quite interesting how the scene of the Lord’s triumphant entry changed into the scene of crucifixion on Good Friday and the very mouth that was shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna” to the “Son of David” started shouting “Crucify Him, Crucify Him”. This brings us to the Triduum.
“Triduum” is a Latin word for “three”.
It is the last three days of Lent: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
It begins with the Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday – the name “Maundy” comes from the words of Jesus, “Mandatum novum”, a new commandment.
This new commandment of Jesus is “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
On this day the Church commemorates the events in the upper room the night before Jesus died where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and instituted the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders.
On Holy Thursday Jesus gave us an example of how to live a life of service.
After this, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. There and then He was arrested by the soldiers.
At the end of Mass, the altar is stripped, in preparation for Good Friday. This could symbolise Christ’s being stripped by the Roman soldiers prior to His crucifixion.
The attention of the Church goes to the Altar of Repose where we fulfil the request of Jesus “so could you not stay awake with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40).
At the Altar of Repose the Blessed Sacrament is kept till the Easter Vigil when Mass of the resurrection will be celebrated.
On Good Friday the Church recalls the day when Christ died on the cross to redeem sinful humanity.
It is a day of fast and abstinence.
If Good Friday is the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified, what is “good” about it?
That question puzzles not only children but many adults as well.
It is called Good Friday because it was the Friday that changed the history of humanity.
The Baltimore Catechism declares that Good Friday is called “good” because Christ, by His Death, “showed His great love for humanity, and purchased for us every blessing”.
On this day, Christ reconciles humanity to God and healed the wounded relationship between God and humanity that was wounded by the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve.
From this day, humanity becomes a new creation and all things become new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Good Friday is a consolation to all who suffer from various problems.
It is a consolation to them because looking up to Christ on the cross and meditating on his excruciating passion and death they are reminded that they are not alone in their suffering.
No Mass is celebrated on Good Friday, until Holy Saturday night.
After the Communion Service of Good Friday, all are expected to leave the Church sorrowfully and quietly.
From the time of evening liturgy of Good Friday till the celebration of the Mass of Easter Vigil, we are expected to genuflect or do a profound bow to the Cross, the sign of our Christian victory.
On Holy Saturday, there is no daytime celebration of Eucharist (Mass).
It is a day when we contemplate Christ in the tomb and prepare for the Easter vigil.
Easter Vigil Mass reminds us of the centre and high point of our Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is the “Night of nights” when we celebrate the moving into glory of Jesus Christ, the victory and triumph of good over evil, of love over hate, of light over darkness and all the powers of destruction, of peace and tranquility over war and acrimony, of unity over division, and of life over death.
On this day, our Christian faith and hope is reassured because “if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and our faith has been in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
As we journey with Christ this week, let us contemplate on how best it is to live our Christian vocation, hoping that on the last day we might resurrect with Christ who is the sure hope of our Christian faith.
Let us journey together with Christ.
Fr Nicholas Okafor is an associate pastor of Surfers Paradise parish.