“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” St. Paul says.
After 40 days of preparation, we arrive at the most important week of the Church liturgical calendar. We celebrate the central mystery of our faith – the Resurrection. But we also celebrate the institution of the priesthood, the Eucharist. The Holy Week marks the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the week that changed human history.
Each Holy Week is an invitation to change our lives too, a reminder that He died for us on the cross. Holy Week is a reminder that our lives have meaning and purpose.
Our culture manages to reduce every holiday to a special sales promotion. We avoid talking about pain and death. We crave instant gratification – the Easter Bunny and the silly hats without the crucifixion.
Holy Week requires us to go through Good Friday and the Crucifixion in order to get to the Resurrection. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the price of our salvation. You can’t have one without the other. The joy we feel at the end of the Easter Vigil or at the Easter Mass comes after the Lenten prayers and fasting, after a week reflecting on the Passion and Death of the Christ.
As we celebrate the very essence of our faith, we also become part of ancient traditions. And in our diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, we can celebrate Holy Week in many languages and many styles. Our diocese is truly Catholic in the original meaning of the word – universal.
This is the time to welcome in our parishes people who don’t usually go to Mass every Sunday. We begin with Palm Sunday, of course, when we remember the triumphal entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem. We come back home with palm branches.
On Monday, every church in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island will be open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. to offer the sacrament of reconciliation. That way, the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, as well as the Archdiocese of New York, want to offer the faithful the best way to prepare for Easter by giving us the opportunity to go to cofession.
On Tuesday, Bishop DiMarzio will celebrate the Chrism Mass at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights. That night, the clergy of the diocese will renew their promises and the bishop will bless the holy oils used for the sacraments in our churches.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist. On that first Mass, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and each celebrant will do the same with twelve members of the parish.
On Good Friday Mass is not celebrated. We have the solemn Good Friday service with the veneration of the Cross. And we have many processions in different communities around the diocese.
On Saturday night, we will have the most elaborated and joyful liturgy of the Catholic calendar – the Easter Vigil. The readings from the Bible and many details of the liturgy give us a full picture of the history of our salvation, from the creation of the world to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is the week to renew our faith, to prepare ourselves for the next year, to start again cultivating our friendship with Jesus Christ. This week is different, and our diocese offers us plenty of opportunities to live it intensely.