Holy Week is the most dramatic time of the year when it comes to the Church’s liturgy. During this upcoming week, we celebrate the essence of our faith – the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Not only are the ceremonies starkly different from the rest of the liturgical calendar but there are so many extra para-liturgical ceremonies in which we can participate. We are particularly blessed in Brooklyn and Queens because so many immigrants have brought their ethnic customs to share with us here.
Palm Sunday, of course, is one of the most popular church days of the year. Large numbers of people come to receive their palm to keep around the house or to decorate graves of family members.
On Monday, we join the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Rockville Centre for Reconciliation Monday when every church in the city and on Long Island is open for confession from 3 to 9 p.m.
Tuesday is special because Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is joined by most of the priests in the diocese for the annual Chrism Mass at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights. The clergy are given the opportunity to renew their promises and the bishop blesses the holy oils that will be used for the sacraments in all churches throughout the coming year.
The evening liturgy also allows the bishop to speak in a personal and direct way to the priests of the diocese. He calls it his annual “pep talk.”
Holy Thursday is the day we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist as the Church commemorates the Last Supper celebrate by Jesus with His Apostles.
Good Friday is a day of high drama. The apostolic group Communion and Liberation stages a large outdoor procession from St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge to Ground Zero. Along the way, the line of march stops to pray Stations of the Cross.
During the afternoon, the Church marks the death of Jesus on the cross with a stark prayer service that features veneration of the cross and the distribution of Communion without Mass being celebrated. Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the only days of the year when Mass is not celebrated.
Later on Good Friday, there are outdoor procession all around the diocese as parishioners follow crosses and statues of the Sorrowful Mother around their neighborhoods. The largest are the predominantly Italian observances in Bensonhurst, Carroll Gardens, Ridgewood and Whitestone.
On Holy Saturday, young Hispanics conduct their Caminata, a long walk through different areas that serves as a pilgrimage of penance.
Of course, on Saturday evening, the churches come alive again with the celebration of the Easter Vigil. Begun in a dark church, the church dramatically lights up as the Good News that Jesus has risen is announced to all.
The Church offers us unique opportunities during Holy Week. Participate! Take advantage of the beautiful celebrations of faith as a sign of your own personal convictions and renewal.