By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, Clarion Herald Commentary
Holy Week is here, which is always described as the summit of the church’s liturgical season. Can you share some thoughts on Holy Week?
One of the joys of Holy Week for me is the opportunity to welcome hundreds of people into the Catholic Church. This year we have nearly 350 people who will enter the church at the Easter Vigil. As I’ve said many times, we not only become larger as a church but stronger as well.
What is the significance of Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem as king and messiah, but we cannot forget that just five days later, he was crucified. Palm Sunday sets the stage for the mysteries we will celebrate during the week – the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and his passion, death and resurrection. Jesus is hailed on Palm Sunday as the prophet from Nazareth, and he is welcomed with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
You will also celebrate the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, April 16, at St. Louis Cathedral. What is the Chrism Mass?
It’s always a pleasure for me to celebrate this Mass, not only to bless the oils that will be used in the sacraments for the coming year but also to celebrate with my brother priests the renewal of our priestly commitment. Students from every school in the archdiocese are invited to attend the Mass, and last year the cathedral was filled to overflowing. We bless the oil of catechumens, which is used to anoint people preparing for baptism; the oil of the sick, which is used to anoint those who are ill and to pray for their health in mind, body and spirit; and the chrism, which is used for confirmation and the ordination of priests. The chrism is used to anoint the hands of the priest and is also used in the blessing of new churches.
What about Holy Thursday?
On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and in a particular way we celebrate with gratitude the institution of the Eucharist. We also do the washing of the feet – not just to re-enact what Jesus did with his apostles but also to recall Jesus’ words: “As I have done for you, so you must do for others.” We are called to “wash each other’s feet” and to be people of charity. I will be privileged to wash the feet of several inmates at the Orleans Parish Justice Center on Holy Thursday as well as preside at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. Louis Cathedral at 7 p.m.
For Christians, Good Friday is the most solemn day of the year.
It is the “Celebration of Passion of the Lord.” We proclaim the passion, pray, reverence the cross and are invited to receive Christ in the Eucharist. It is a solemn, quiet, profound celebration. We should observe the solemn nature of Good Friday not only in church but also in our daily routine on that day. We should spend time in prayer. Good Friday is not a day for parties or crawfish boils or fish fries. It is a day for prayer, sacrifice and fasting. Many local Catholics observe a wonderful devotion to by walking to nine churches on Good Friday and saying prayers at each church along the way. I don’t exactly know how that tradition started, but it’s a testament to our special brand of Catholicism in New Orleans. On Good Friday evening, I will also do a prayer service with prisoners in St. Bernard.
What about the Easter Vigil next Saturday?
It is a powerful liturgy – the solemn celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. It is within the context of this Mass that we baptize those who have been preparing to enter the Catholic Church, and we receive a profession of faith from those who are already Christian but wish to join the family of the Catholic Church. Once again, I’m grateful that we have close to 350 people who will join our family this Easter.
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.