Like reality TV, Holy Week liturgies invite participants into the drama

| March 26, 2015

NienstedtBlI am not one to watch much television with the exception of the evening news. Yet, even I am aware of the tremendous popularity that reality TV is experiencing in today’s culture. Viewers are being drawn into live experiences with shows like “Dancing with the Stars” or “Survivor,” “The Bachelor” or “American Idol.”

In the celebration of Holy Week, we are called to participate in the Church’s liturgies in a way that is every bit as intense as our commitment to reality TV, and every bit as “real” as the participation in these popular shows. Rather than being passive spectators, we are invited to be drawn into this drama, the drama of our salvation. These are not just great events that happened long ago, but they are events that we truly commemorate, that is to say, ongoing and enduring realities that have implications for the here and now. And so the purpose of our liturgical commemoration is to allow ourselves to become active participants in the drama of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. We enter with mind and heart into the Passion of Jesus, experiencing both his joy and sorrow, his loneliness and his prayerfulness, his humiliation and his exaltation in such a way as to be moved toward genuine conversion and transformation.

Palm Sunday is a perfect example of this “being drawn in,” for as we arrive at church, we are handed palm branches with which we process into the house of God. They are held again during the proclamation of the Gospel.

This year on Palm Sunday, we have the opportunity to hear the Passion according to St. Mark. Historically speaking, St. Mark’s account of Christ’s death and resurrection is the oldest part of this first Gospel. Thus, these passages present the experience of the earliest Church. St. Mark, in a particularly intense way, focuses on the physical and psychological suffering of Jesus as well as the utter betrayal and failure of his apostles.

On Holy Thursday, we find ourselves seated among the Twelve, including Judas, as Jesus moves from one to another in the washing of our feet. Then we watch intently as Jesus takes bread, blesses and distributes it, saying, “Take and eat, this is my Body.” Then at the end of the meal, we observe him taking the cup into his hands and saying, “Take and drink, this is my Blood.” At the end of this liturgy, there is a beautiful procession with the Blessed Sacrament to another altar prepared in the church. Then all is quiet in prayer as we follow Jesus and the apostles into Gethsemane to experience with him his hours of agony.

On Good Friday, we find ourselves at the foot of the cross with our Blessed Lady, St. John and the holy women, listening to Jesus cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As we hear those words ring in our ears, the mystery of Christ’s cross resonates in our hearts once more. Then we are invited forward to venerate the cross with a kiss. In the procession, we know that we have entered spiritually into this drama in a very powerful and moving way.

Holy Saturday is marked by an eerie silence as if all the world has gone to sleep. The church stands empty until nightfall when the Holy Saturday vigil begins with the blessing of the new fire, the lighting of the paschal candle and the joyful strains of the Exsultet. Next comes the reading of the Scriptures chronicling the highlights of God’s interventions with our forbearers, culminating in the celebration of the Easter sacraments, that is, baptism, confirmation and first holy Eucharist. Here, like that holy morning over 2,000 years ago, we discover anew the mystery of new life offered in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

And so, we are invited this Holy Week to relive with Jesus his terrible suffering and ignominious death, but also to experience his new life, which is the path to our salvation.

Holy Week is so much more than reality TV. It is the mystery of salvation, a mystery into which we are called and invited. Let us allow ourselves to hear this call, and to respond with generous, personal attention.

God bless you!

Como en reality TV, las liturgias de la Semana Santa nos invitan a ser  participantes en el drama


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Category: Only Jesus

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