Palm Sunday is this Sunday. Holy Week – the season during which we commemorate the very beginnings of Christianity – has begun with the blessing of the palms and Catholics everywhere will participate in the liturgical year’s longest Sunday Gospel reading.
I have vivid memories of the spicy smell of incense and the solemnity of Holy Week during my eight years of elementary school at Holy Family. I recall thinking that Palm Sunday was heartbreaking because it had two very different messages. It begins of course with the happy commemoration of Jesus’s triumphant return to Jerusalem – but quickly the mood becomes somber as we remember the Lord’s passion and death in the Gospel reading.
On Palm Sunday, it always seemed to me, the Lord’s resurrection and the joy of Easter Sunday seemed mighty far away.
The Paschal Mystery and the Last Supper, it is noted in this week’s cover story, not only are marked during Holy Week but occur for us during each and every Mass, no matter the time of year.
In this week’s feature “A Mystery for the Ages”, Father Troy Schneider, vicar of Holy Family Cathedral, notes that the liturgy during each Mass is “a dialog between God and His people and a celebration of the life, suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is basically us present there and time standing still in a very real way.”
It is the re-creation in each Mass of the Last Supper and Jesus’s presence in the bread and wine that sets us as Catholics apart from other Christian faiths. For us, the “Paschal Mystery” means that we receive Christ’s very real body and blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist. For Protestants, “communion is a wonderful dinner they have with the Lord,” says Father Troy. “For us it takes on a different meaning. It’s Christ’s presence with the Father and the Holy Spirit in a sacramental way.”