Happy Palm Sunday friends! I hope you enjoyed your Palm Sunday worship and the comedy it brings. I always think if it weren't disrespectful to the Mass we could play a great game of people-watching Bingo on Palm Sunday. Spot the kid who has no idea how to make a cross with his palms, spot the one who keeps tickling their siblings when they think their parents are not looking, spot the adult who probably shouldn't be trusted with their own palm... You get the picture.
Palm Sunday also marks the beginning of Holy Week, our last few days of Lent before we celebrate Holy Thursday and Good Friday, which are actually not a part of Lent. Lent ends this Wednesday. But Holy Thursday and Good Friday are their own holy days in the church, when we can attend services that are only held once a year.
On Holy Thursday, we hear another Gospel reading of Jesus' passion and death. This is the service when the priest washes the feet of a pre-chosen group of parishioners in front of the congregation and we recall Jesus' role on earth, to serve and humble Himself for us. If you have never been to a Holy Thursday service, I challenge you to go. It is such a powerful celebration of God's love for us and what Jesus did. As a child, I loved serving at Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and as adult, I appreciate the opportunity to see the humility and love Jesus practiced.
Good Friday has several beautiful traditions tied to it as well. Firstly, Good Friday is the only day in the entire year that the Mass is not celebrated. Why? Because we believe that Jesus died on Good Friday, at approximately 3 pm. Therefore, we honor his sacrifice by not celebrating the Mass but by venerating the Cross. Good Friday services can include a Divine Mercy chaplet held at 3 pm . The Chaplet is the ultimate outpouring of Christ's mercy towards and is prayed as a Novena. You can offer the Novena for any personal intentions, but is also for the souls lost in Purgatory and for those who have yet to find God in their lives. Veneration is later in the evening with a communion service that uses bread and wine that was consecrated last night, on Holy Thursday. During Veneration, the congregation honors the wood of the Cross that led to our salvation. You can look at, touch, or even kiss a large, blessed cross in honor of Jesus' ultimate sacrifice for us.
On Saturday evening, you can attend the Easter Vigil Mass, which is full of deep traditions, such as the blessing of the Paschal Candle and being a part of the Sacraments of Initiation as new members join the Church. Sunday is Easter Sunday, and there are Masses offered throughout the day, including sunrise services and more "normal" Mass times. Easter is the most important service for us to attend as Catholics! It is the ultimate celebration of God and God's great, merciful plan for us.
Take time to discuss with your family and church friends which services you want to attend. If you have never attended services on Holy Thursday or Good Friday, I highly recommend you do. They are both such a beautiful expression of faith and tradition and will help you to appreciate your Lenten journey even more. If you haven't yet, make time to attend Confession before Thursday as well in preparation for Jesus' return to us on Easter.