Monday, April 10, 2006

Holy Week

In the Catholic Church Calendar, this is the most sacred time of year. Yesterday was Palm Sunday when we commemorate Jesus's entry in Jerusalem when the people welcomed him by waving palms and saying Hosanah (as most of you know, it all went downhill for him from there).

Palm Sunday also involves the reading of the Passion (the events surrounding the death of Jesus) which can be quite long depending on how the priest decides to do it. As a child, we spent this time making things out of our palm fronds--crosses and so forth. A friend of mine once said she never kept her palms because it was, "too much responsibility." See, having been blessed, the palms can never be thrown away. You can, however, burn them, and a parish will burn their leftover palms to use as the ashes for Ash Wednesday the following year. My grandmother says that her mother used to burn bits of palm during storms, and my grandmother still does this. I guess this was done to somehow keep your house safe, although I'm not sure how.

Holy Week is when the Church pulls out all the stops. It is ceremony and ritual as never seen during the rest of the Church year. It is during this week that the holy oils that will be used for the rest of the year will be blessed. All Catholics are supposed to be preparing for the great Triduum--Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday which is when the Easter Vigil will take place.

As a child, my family never went to the Triduum services. This was probably a wise idea because no small child could ever hope to sit through the long and solemn services of those three days. Once, when I was in high school, we went to Easter Vigil and afterward, my brothers and I turned to my mother and swore we would never again attend a Mass that was three hours long.*

Now that I'm older, however, the services of the Triduum appeal to me, even if they are long. They remind me of Catholic heritage (if there is such a thing) and I am happy to go to them (provided I don't have to participate in the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday which still creeps me out).

Unfortunately, because I have been sick, I didn't make it to Palm Sunday Mass. However, I will do my best to make it to the Triduum services.

*I now know that in some Protestant denominations, a three-hour service is the norm. A typical Catholic Mass, however, is 45minutes to 1 hour; three hours of church feels excessive to the average Catholic.

1 comment:

  1. Be grateful you aren't Russian Orthodox--the Easter vigil lasts from around 11PM until sunrise. I was raised Presbyterian--if the service went over 45 minutes, people started to get testy!

    Hope you feel better soon!