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The Greatest Week of the Year

April 3rd, 2012by Dan Thomas

For me, Holy Week has been for many years the most powerful liturgical experience of all. Part of this feeling comes from working with the RCIA for so long and part of it comes from the beauty of the liturgies themselves. They have so many deep and meaningful symbols that speak to what Christianity is all about. There are processions, incense, candles, darkness, foot washing, oil, water, and so much more. There are scripture readings about the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Passion narratives, the profound reading from Philippians about Jesus life and death, the reading from the prophets, the creation story and on and on.

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as a “king” who arrives on a donkey not a warhorse. His followers lay before him Palms and cloaks, praising him with “hosannas.” But the gospel reading is the Passion narrative reminding us how short our honoring of this difficult and challenging prophet lasts. His message is not easy to hear or to live.

The Chrism Mass is an experience of our connection to the larger Church as we celebrate with our Archbishop the blessing of the sacramental oils, the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumens and Chrism. The gathering of the priests and their procession into the cathedral reminds us of their call to the service of the diocesan community and celebrates their dedication to the Eucharist.

I love Holy Thursday and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper for its recalling of the first Eucharist, but especially for the foot-washing ritual. When I was at Corpus Christi Parish, the staff began the washing by having the congregation come forward and each of us to wash their feet. It was an incredible experience to wash the feet of each person, there feet so ordinary, battered, and beautiful. After a while, one of them touched my shoulder and took my place and my feet were washed. What a moving experience to both wash and be washed.

Good Friday has such a profound silence and majestic presence that it helps me get in touch with my past “deaths” and my death to come guiding me (I pray) to an acceptance of both that I find so difficult.

The Easter Vigil needs its own special commentary–that I will do in my next blog post.

I came across this reflection  from PBS’s Religion and Ethics.

Dan Thomas

Dan Thomas is a retired Director of Religious Education, living in Dayton Ohio. His education includes graduation from Chaminade HS and the University of Dayton (MA in Pastoral Ministry). He is married with two adult sons and is a parishioner at St. Helen, Dayton.