Sunday, April 17, 2011

Entering the Narrow Gate: Following Jesus in Holy Week

Today begins another of those moments in the liturgical year when we step out of our own time and into "God time."  Celebrating Jesus' Passion on Palm Sunday is one of those past-present experiences - it happened 2,000 years ago, but it is coming to life again among us as we hold our own palm branches and hear the great story of his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.  Our own song of triumphant entry rings out as the ministers process to the altar for our celebration.

As we settle into our celebration, we hear of the Suffering Servant in the first reading and in the poignant responsorial psalm. From the writings of St. Paul, we hear that Jesus is given the "name above every other name."  As the Passion is read, we watch as Jesus celebrates Passover with his disciples, washes their feet and gives them the great gift of the Eucharist. We listen in sorrow as he is arrested, tried, scourged and nailed to a cross - and with those who were at the foot of the cross so long ago, we feel their pain and loss. Then we go home to finish the final days of our Lenten journey and to prepare for the Three Days.

For me, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of Holy Week are always an interesting mixture of anticipation, interior preparation, and a sort of background focus on what is to come, in spite of the ongoing business of everyday life.  Inevitably there is a major rehearsal for us musicians - where, unlike most people in the pews, we get a foretaste of everything that is to come, from Gesthemane anguish to Alleluia joy.  However, in the liturgical year spirit of  "already-not-yet" we know the time has not yet arrived - at the same time we also know we will be ready when it does.

So, how does having heard the Passion this weekend prepare us for the great Three Days of the Easter Triduum?  I think we do this today so we can carry the story in our hearts and ponder it until we hear it again, beginning Thursday night. This is not an ordinary week - and we enter it so that we will not be ordinary people, but extraordinary ones, transformed by this annual celebration of Paschal Mystery.

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