We began our Lenten season on Wednesday, 26 February 2020 and now it has come to an end as Holy Week begins. Out of the 52 weeks in the year, Holy Week (the last week of Lent and a week before Easter), is the best time of the year for us Catholics. It is a week that prepares our hearts for the Easter celebrations. Although it is not the busiest week of the year for us, when compared with Christmas, – where we are busy shopping, travelling and planning big parties with family and friends. Holy Week is very different because it guides us to enter into the solemn liturgy of the Church – the Easter Tridium.
Holy Week celebrations this year will be much quieter for all of us due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Church throughout the world has suspended Masses for several weeks now and we don’t know when we will be able to get back to our Churches. It is the first in our lifetime that our Easter Triduum will not be celebrated in the Church. However, it can still be an amazing celebration of the Pascal Mystery of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection as we celebrate it from within our homes. Various websites will be carrying live streaming of the solemn celebrations throughout the world, including our own Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur (tv.archkl.org), and I strongly encourage you to watch and participate in these reverently.
As a part of my preparation for Holy Week, I have started reading a spiritual book entitled, “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week – From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection” written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 2011. We begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday celebration by exclaiming “Hosanna.” This word “Hosanna” is echoed in all the four Gospels. Pope Benedict XVI said that the exclamation “Hosanna” originally means – “Come to our aid!” During the feast of Tabernacles, the priest in the Old Testament would be “processing seven times around the altar of sacrifice, as an urgent prayer for rain.” This feast lasted seven days and it marked the completion of the harvest (Lev 23:43-44). The Lord would bless all the produce and all the works of their hands so that they would all be joyful together. The feast of Tabernacles eventually “changed from a feast of petition into one of praise, so too the cry for help more and more turned into shouts of jubilation.” The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem has become a joyful praise of God because it points us towards a future time of messianic hope and salvation, when Jesus comes and restores all things.
All of us are grieving about not being able to attend and celebrate Mass and Good Friday Service during Holy Week. It’s mind-boggling to think that a virus pandemic has effected the whole world with such magnitude, and that we are now forced to celebrate Palm Sunday and the Easter Triduum within the confines of our homes. However, this year we will celebrate our life of faith through Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection within our own families. We can make it as nourishing for our spirit and faith by participating wholeheartedly in the live stream Masses and engaging ourselves by helping one another journey towards a joyful Easter celebration. As preparation, we could read the last two chapters of any of the Gospels and meditate on the last week of Jesus’ life on Earth. Perhaps we could also prepare our altar and home in anticipation of Holy Week.
This year, I am going to turn on the PA System and celebrate Holy Week Masses and Services alone at the Altar. In all the Mases and services, I will definitely remember all your families and children. For the past few weeks I have been praying particularly for this pandemic to end, but I will keep you and your family close to the Altar and to my heart each day during Holy Week. I invite you to join me in spirit, and together as a Church we shall celebrate a meaningful and significant Holy Week at home. My prayers and best wishes are with all of you in that you will have a spirit-filled and prayerful Holy Week with your respective families.
Rev. Fr. George P.