On the Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Good Friday) the Church commemorates the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross for the sins of all mankind, at the same time the Passover lamb was being killed and prepared for consumption among the Jewish people. On this day the Church does not celebrate Mass. The main altar remains completely bare, and the Tablernacle is empty. It is at the 3 o’clock hour on Good Friday that Jesus expired on the Cross, His Divine Mercy being poured out on the whole world. At this hour the Christian faithful should observe a solemn and prayerful silence in memory of the hour in which our salvation was won at so great a price.
On Thursday of Holy Week (Maundy Thursday) the Church celebrates the three pillars of the Catholic Church instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper: the priesthood, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the Holy Eucharist. This is the traditional day for priests to gather with their bishop at the Chrism Mass, to receive oils blessed by the bishop and to publicly renew their priestly promises. In the evening the Church celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. After this Mass the altar is stripped bare and the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Tabernacle and processed to a separate altar of repose. Here the Blessed Sacrament is adored until late in the night to commemorate the time Jesus spent in Garden of Gethsemane in agonizing prayer, the start of his Passion. The Blessed Sacrament is then taken away and hidden until the Easter Vigil in memory of Our Lord’s death and burial.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the reliving of the final seven days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. On this day the Church recalls the triumphal entrance of the Messiah into Jerusalem in order to accomplish the Pascal Mystery: His Passion, death, burial, and resurrection for the salvation of all mankind. Jesus rode into the city on a colt as the crowd laid their cloaks and palm branches on the road before him, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest!”
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The 5th Sunday of Lent is historically known as “Passion Sunday” which ushers in the final two weeks of Lent, called “Passiontide.” Passiontide is characterized by a heightened celebration of Lent as Easter approaches, reaching its peak during Holy Week. During this period the faithful redouble their Lenten penances. It is also customary on this day to shroud the all the sacred images in the churches with purple cloths, save the Stations of the Cross. On Good Friday the crucifixes are unveiled, while the other sacred images are unveiled on the afternoon of Holy Saturday in preparation for the Easter Vigil. This imagery calls to mind how Christ hid his Divinity during his Passion and death, no longer performing miracles until his Resurrection from the dead. Likewise, the holy images are veiled in imitation of their Lord, their glory being unveiled with the joy of the celebration of Easter.
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