Today we begin the most solemn and “holiest” of weeks, where the central mysteries of our salvation are recalled and made present for us in symbol and ritual.
Palm Sunday has a dual focus — in the opening of the liturgy we bless and process with palms to recall Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. As we move into the readings we hear Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant which is fulfilled in Christ who became obedient even to death on a cross, and in the Gospel we recall Christ’s Passion and death. Thus begins the week of Passion and passage. Red is worn today and on Good Friday to recall the suffering and death of Christ.
“Cycle A” offers us the Passion account from Matthew, who wrote for a Jewish audience. Much of what you hear will explain that what happened was “to fulfill the prophecies” in the Hebrew Scriptures.
In the description of the institution of the Eucharist, Matthew adds to “this is my blood of the covenant” the additional text “which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins” to emphasize that it is Christ’s sacrificial death which brings about forgiveness of sin.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, the soldiers and Judas appear and a disciple strikes a servant to prevent Jesus from being taken. Jesus admonishes them to put away the sword for “then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”
After his arrest, Jesus is questioned by the high priest and is silent in response to the accusations.
After the crucifixion, the soldiers divide Jesus’ garments as described in Psalm 22:8, and the crowd comments and mocks Jesus, quoting Wis 2:13-20 which describes the suffering of the Just One. Finally, at the point of Christ’s death, the splitting of the Temple veil, the earth quaking and rocks splitting and the opening of tombs recall the events surrounding God’s powerful coming in the psalms (19, 68, 69, and 77) and the new and final age described in Dn 12:1-3.
Lent formally ends on Thursday afternoon and the triduum begins Holy Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and continues through evening prayer of Easter Sunday.
On Thursday evening the celebrant wears white as we focus on the gifts of the Eucharist and the priesthood. On this evening we also receive the oils consecrated by the bishop at the chrism Mass earlier in the week.
On Good Friday we continue to reflect upon the suffering servant of Isaiah and the Passion account from John’s Gospel. There is a very different tone in this account as we see Jesus “in charge.” He hands himself over to the soldiers, he answers the questions of Pilate, he entrusts his mother to John, and finally he “hands over” his spirit.
As our Lenten journey comes to a close, perhaps we can find more time and more silence this week to reflect upon all that God has done in us and to what more we are being invited these final days.
Sr. Rehrauer is the diocesan director of Evangelization and Worship.