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The Week That Changed Everything

Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday, we commemorate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. As Jesus rode into the city on a small donkey, the Jews gathered around him, throwing cloaks and palm branches on the road and exclaiming praises as he passed by. So at Palm Sunday Mass, there is a blessing of palms which the faithful hold as they process into church. The blessed palms are later kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ. During Palm Sunday Mass, the Gospel account of the Passion of Christ is announced.

Holy Thursday

On Holy Thursday, we celebrate a special Mass of the Lord’s Supper – that commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. On the night before Jesus Christ was crucified, he changed bread and wine into his own Body and Blood, and he commanded the Apostles – and their successors through the centuries – to act in his stead and re-present this sacrifice. So at every Mass, by way of transubstantiation, the bread and wine offered by the priest becomes Christ’s Body and Blood again. Just as Christ did for his 12 Apostles at the Last Supper and as he commanded them to do likewise, during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the priest – who represents Christ – ceremoniously washes the feet of 12 people in the congregation. After the Last Supper and before he was arrested and condemned to death, Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, accompanied by two of the disciples. So after the Holy Thursday Mass, the remaining sacred hosts are carried out of the sanctuary to an “altar of repose,” and the people go with the Eucharistic Christ in a procession to the altar of repose. People stay for a time, adoring the wondrous sacrament that Jesus instituted that day 2,000 years ago.

A VACANT CHURCH. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper finished, the church – now without the Eucharist – is truly empty. So the tabernacle light – which is always lit and signifying Christ’s presence – is extinguished, and the tabernacle door is left open, exposing the vacant space inside. The altar is stripped bare of its linens and candles, holy water is removed from the church’s fonts and the sacraments are not celebrated until the Easter vigil. Like the first Christians bereft of Jesus and mourning the two days after the crucifixion, the church stands unadorned until the Easter vigil Mass.

Good Friday

Good Friday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence. Those over 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between. We refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Good Friday.

On Good Friday, the church gathers for the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, which includes a reading of a Gospel account of the Passion, Holy Communion (consecrated at Mass on Thursday night) and veneration of the Cross. The faithful process to the cross at the foot of the sanctuary, as if to receive communion. There each person reverences the crucifix with a kiss or a bow. Ceremonies usually take place at 3 p.m. – the hour at which Christ died on the cross.

Holy Saturday.

On this day, the Church waits at the Lord's tomb, and meditates on His Passion and Death and His descent into Hell. With prayer and fasting we await His glorious Easter resurrection. Mary is also a Holy Saturday symbol. According to Catholic tradition, Mary represents the entire body of the Church. As she waited in faith for the victorious triumph of Her Son over death on the first Holy Saturday, so we too wait with Mary on the present Holy Saturday.

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