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Two Holy Weeks - 29th March 2015
The two weeks which begin on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord are the two most important weeks in the liturgical calendar.
Palm Sunday is the first day of what is traditionally known as “Holy Week”. As this title suggests, we are called to enter this time with reverence and celebrate its rites with care and devotion.
Holy Week is not an end in itself, however, but rather a means to an end. Its purpose is to help us get ready for the heart of the Church’s year, the Triduum (three days).
Holy Week concludes as Mass for Thursday of the Lord’s Supper begins. This is the first part of the Triduum. It continues the following day with Friday of the Passion of the Lord and reaches its climax with Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord.
The latter actually comprises two celebrations - the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night after sunset on Holy Saturday and Sunday of the Resurrection the following day.
The Lenten 40 days of preparation which include Holy Week are balanced by 50 days of Easter Time celebration, beginning with the Octave of Easter in the week after Easter Sunday. These days are considered so important that they are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord.
So today we stand on the threshold of two special weeks – Holy Week leading up to the Triduum, and the week after Easter Sunday during which the resurrection is celebrated with intense joy.
Many Catholics mark Holy Week by attending Lenten study groups, participating in the Sacrament of Penance, and celebrating the Way of the Cross to prepare themselves for the Church’s Great Feast.
But what about the Octave of Easter? It seems we are better at preparing for the resurrection than celebrating it! Perhaps we could make a special effort to attend weekday Mass, or to celebrate morning or evening prayer, during this week.
Masses for the Octave of Easter may include the Sequence that is sung or recited before the Gospel Acclamation on Easter Sunday. Including this text in our private prayers during this week will link us with Christians around the world who celebrate Christ’s Passion and Resurrection at this time.
Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb;
and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners to his Father reconciled.
Death with life contended: combat strangely ended!
Life's own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign.
Tell us, Mary: say what thou didst see upon the way.
The tomb the Living did enclose;
I saw Christ's glory as he rose!
The angels there attesting;
shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Christ, my hope, has risen: he goes before you into Galilee.
That Christ is truly risen from the dead we know.
Victorious king, thy mercy show! Alleluia, alleluia!
Christ has become our paschal sacrifice;
let us feast with joy in the Lord.