Every year since my arrival in 2010, I have failed to get a message out to all of you, dear brothers and sisters, concerning the significance of Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. I am trying to rectify that situation today by sending some thoughts to deepen your awareness and appreciation for the holiest time of the year in our life of Divine Grace.
Holy Week begins with Passion (Palm) Sunday. The Passion of Our Blessed Lord is read from one of the Synoptic Gospels (this year we hear from Luke’s Gospel). The Passion is sung or proclaimed chorally from John’s Gospel on Good Friday each year.
The pious custom of our Holy Church finds us gathered mid-week (we have settled for Tuesday) to celebrate the Chrism Mass. The Tradition usually sets this Mass for the morning of Holy Thursday since it marks the institution of the Priesthood by our Blessed Lord. As so many things in our lives have been marked by expediency, we in the Diocese of La Crosse have set Tuesday of Holy Week as our day to celebrate fully and totally the gift of the priesthood. The Chrism Mass unites the entire Presbyterate, Diaconate, and complete Faithful of Christ’s Mystical Body with the Bishop at one place, the Diocesan Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Diocese. Gathered around one altar and as one believing community, we celebrate the unity and institution of the priesthood, the Consecration of the Sacred Chrism (used at all Baptisms, Confirmations, and Priestly Ordinations in the Diocese for the coming year), priestly recommitment to their promise of obedience to the Diocesan Bishop, and the unity of the Diocesan and Universal Church with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Chrism Mass is the highlight of Diocesan life in union with the universal Church. It is a must for all Catholics to attend at least once in their lives. With that being said, I should point out that none of the ceremonies of Holy Week: Chrism Mass, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday), Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday), Solemn Easter Vigil (Saturday before Easter), are obligatory—that is, you are not obliged to participate as you are on Sundays or Holy Days of obligation. Again, I heartily invite you to attend and participate in the full celebration of the Holy Week services at least once in your life.
Easter—the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord—marks the central mystery of our faith. We commemorate the Resurrection and reaffirm our faith each and every Sunday. So, I wish you the depths of God’s Grace for Holy Week and the Abundant Blessings of Easter—I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!