Holy Week is the last seven days in the journey towards Easter that began over a month ago with the start of Lent. This week is the most important week in the church year. Holy Week is filled with mixed emotions – sadness at what Jesus had to suffer, joy at what is to come, wonder at the people of His day who didn’t understand, struggles to comprehend His suffering.
Suffering is something that we don’t like. Nobody wants to suffer, so we do whatever we can to avoid it. Many people ask how God can allow suffering – if He’s so good, then why do bad things happen?
We discussed that yesterday morning in my RCIA group. One of the things that came up was paradoxes – things that seem bad but are really good. There are many things in the Holy Week story that are paradoxical. A king suffering. Death bringing life. Crowds that screamed “Hosanna” one day and “Crucify Him!” a few days later.
As we discussed this, we turned to the person next to us to share a paradox in our lives. I hesitated to share the one thing that I thought of – something that most people would say was bad, but was actually a good thing. My partner went first. She shared a situation similar to what I had gone through. That allowed me to share my situation.
We talked about our pain and also our joy at the good that had come from the bad. Looking back, we can see how God was with us through the suffering, making us stronger, teaching us about Himself.
It is also a comfort to me to know that, however much I suffer, Jesus knows how it feels. He suffered too. If I have felt betrayed, wounded by those who should have loved me, how much more has He felt that way? I thought of Him riding through the crowds on Palm Sunday. He knew what was to come during Holy Week just as well as we do today. He knew that in a few days these people would turn against Him. I would have wanted to turn and run, yet He kept riding. He still gave Himself for them — and for us.
If you’re looking for ways to fully appreciate the liturgical seasons of the Church, I highly recommend Maria von Trapp’s book Around the Year with the von Trapp Family. She refers to Holy Week as Passiontide and explains:
The liturgy follows Christ’s early life step by step. During the Christmas season, we learn of the birth in the stable, the adoration of the shepherd, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight into Egypt, the adoration of the Magi, and finally the return from Egypt. Then we meet Our Lord again at His baptism, we accompany Him into the desert on His fast, and we go with Him for the first and second years of His public life; we listen to His parables, we admired His miracles, and we unite our hearts with Him in His life of toil and missionary love for us.
Now four weeks of instruction have passed. We have followed Our Lord in His apostolic ministry and have reached the moment when, together with Holy Mother Church, we shall contemplate the sorrowful happenings of the last year (during Passion Week) and the last week (during Holy Week) of His life here on earth. We can feel the hatred of Christ’s enemies growing day by day. On Good Friday we shall witness once more the most frightening of all happenings, foretold by the prophets and even by Our Lord Himself, the bloody drama of Calvary.
Maria shares specific traditions that her family practiced during Holy Week. These traditions help us to appreciate and go deeper into our faith. Whether you’re new to the Church as I am, or a cradle Catholic, Maria’s warm memories and ideas are sure to inspire you with a deep love for the season of the Church.
What do you think of the paradox of Holy Week? Do you have any special tradition for this time?