Holy Week: Keep Watch and Pray

Posted by Father Leo Perez, OMI of Team MISSIO on Apr 8, 2019 4:16:58 PM


Have you ever had a cross or religious item blessed by a priest?

Do you think time can also be made holy?

Most people understand what a consecrated place is, such as a church that has been made holy by being blessed for worship and the celebration of the Sacraments. Catholics know that a consecrated church is more than just a building but a sacred space for prayer and lived faith.  We also understand that within a church there are sites that are especially sacred, like the Sanctuary where the Blessed Sacrament is kept in the Tabernacle.  Following this logic that places are holy and that there are also “Holy of Holies,” I would suggest that in the same way we can also consecrate time, and that within this consecrated time, some periods are especially sacred.

Sundays were made holy by our Lord’s Resurrection on the third day, and that is why the last day of the week is a Holy Day of Obligation when we attend Mass and honor Christ our Lord on this our Christian Sabbath. Lent is also a consecrated time of 40 days for penance and prayer, and I would propose that Lent has periods of time within it that are very sacred. Holy Week is one of those hallowed times when we keep watch with Jesus through His passion and death. Of course, any time of our lives is “the acceptable time of salvation,” but Holy Week is an especially sacred time where conversions are even more possible when we express our faith publicly in ways that are especially sublime. As Holy Week approaches, let’s remember to make our Lenten consecrated time especially holy, the “Holy of Holies,” by our watchful prayers, abstinence and good works.

Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, recalls Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem where He went to accomplish the mystery of His passion, death and resurrection.  The crowds welcomed Him joyfully and placed before Him an outdoor carpet of palm fronds and tree branches which symbolized His divinity and kingship.  But we also hear the proclamation of Christ’s Passion at Mass on this day because the Son of Man would soon suffer on the cross to fulfill the will of the Father and be a mediator for our sins.

During Holy Week we also honor Jesus on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by attending Mass or finding time to pray and also practice acts of charity in His name. During these days we hear the Gospels tell of Jesus’ merciful love toward sinners, His message to the Apostles before His suffering, and about the plot to have Him arrested. It is in this spirit of the Master’s faithfulness that we commit ourselves to help those less fortunate than us.

Holy Thursday is a highlight of this sacred week, and it’s also the beginning of the Pascal Triduum. It is on this evening when we remember the Last Supper of our Lord. The Old Testament’s Covenant of Moses, which was sealed by the Passover Meal, is now made the New Testament’s Covenant of Jesus, sealed with the Eucharist. At Holy Thursday Mass the priest washes the feet of a few parishioners, just as Jesus did humbly wash the feet of the Apostles. It is also on this night that we remember Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He says to His closest friends “Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Mt. 26:41).  These words of our Lord are a call to us, His family of friends, to ponder His great sacrifice wherever our daily lives find us.

Good Friday is the solemn day when we commemorate Christ’s passion, death and burial. It is a day of fasting and abstinence, customs of self-abnegation that allow us to conform our will to that of the Father’s. During the services of Good Friday the passion of Christ is proclaimed and we adore the wood of the cross, that horrible instrument of crucifixion which brought us our salvation. Taking part in a public procession or Stations of the Cross on this day can be moving moments that bring us to a deeper, emotional understanding of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice on Calvary. 

Holy Saturday, the last day of Holy Week, is a quiet day to remain in prayer united with Our Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples would have spent this first Holy Saturday in mourning and sorrow, much like a tragic wake or a funeral, not understanding that their beloved Jesus was to be bodily raised the next morning. But our watchful prayer this day is hopeful, for we know that Jesus’ resurrection, soon to be celebrated, has saved us and reconciled us with the Father and one another. 

Prayers for your own personal journey through this very sacred time. Blessings at Easter.

MISSIO offers themed-quizzes in MissioBot to examine your religious knowledge - and this blog by Father Leo Perez, OMI to reflect on questions of mission and faith.   


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