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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinMarch 21, 2008 Issue 

The ups and downs of Holy Week

While we know that joy awaits, we also experience the sorrow

March 23, 2008 -- Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. Is Holy Week an emotional roller-coaster for you?

2. Which of the solemn blessings is most important to you?

3. How do you reconcile the sorrows and joys of Holy Week?

At the conclusion of the Easter liturgy, a solemn blessing may be prayed over the people. This three-fold blessing opens up for us some of the meanings of this great feast.

L e n t
E a s t e r

"May almighty God bless you on this solemn feast of Easter, and may he protect you against all sin. Amen."

In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter boldly proclaims the message of Jesus and his work of redemption. Peter proclaims: ". . . everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43). The Easter mystery, the Lord's resurrection from the dead, deals with two major elements of the human journey: sin and death. Death has been conquered by our Lord's rising from the dead; the chains of sin have been broken through the mystery of the cross.

Our first blessing is a request for protection from sin. All too easily we slip back into darkness and selfishness. As C. S. Lewis once shared as he reviewed his day: "I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed." We all need God's protection to help us resist the temptations toward pride and lust, gluttony and envy, laziness and anger, indeed, to sulk and snap and sneer and snub and storm. We need grace lest the brightness of the Triduum grows dim.

A second solemn blessing: "Through the resurrection of his Son God has granted us healing. May He fulfill his promises, and bless you with eternal life. Amen."

One of the great gifts of St. Paul was his sense of transcendence. He was deeply aware that our true country and homeland is not here. We are destined for eternal life. Thus, he urges the Colossians to give thought to what is above where Jesus sits at God's right hand. Then Paul reminds them that they are bound for glory, for a share in eternal life.

Paul knew of God's promises and shared them with others. Essentially, those promises involved presence and forgiveness. God would be with us always; God would restore us to health through the forgiveness of sin. We are heirs of these promises. Our annual celebration of Easter reminds us of our inheritance and calls us to gratitude for these gifts.

A third solemn blessing: "You have mourned for Christ's sufferings; now you celebrate the joy of the resurrection. May you come with joy to the feast which lasts forever. Amen."

Sorrow and joy! Holy Week is a turbulent time. We are called to dwell below the cross and witness an execution. We are called to watch the Son of God die for the salvation of the world. We are then called into the silence and solitude of the tomb and the garden. Finally, we are called to experience the joy of new life.

For some, Holy Week is an emotional roller-coaster with all the ups and downs that it involves. And though we know that joy will ultimately come, the mourning is not easily forgotten. We do well to join Mary, our Lord's mother, and crawl inside her heart as she shares fully in God's plan of redemption. There, in the depth of a mother's heart, we come to know the true meaning of the sorrow and joy of the paschal mystery.

And our final blessing: "May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

(Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.)

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