By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he was greeted by cries of joy and praise –  “ …  they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel (Jn 12:13).’ ”

Palm Sunday, with its procession of faithful holding palms outside of the church and the reading of the Passion of Christ during Mass, kicks off a Holy Week that includes both a beginning and an end, but not in that order. Instead, it’s the end of one liturgical season and the beginning of another, according to Father Tom Ranzino, vicar general of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

“The best way to look at this is not so much how to get prepared for Holy Week but how do you do Holy Week?” explained Father Ranzino. “When we think about the liturgical seasons of the year, many people think of seasons like Christmas, Easter, even Lent and they fail to remember the liturgical season the Triduum which is right in the middle of Holy Week.”

The Easter Triduum is the “shortest liturgical season we have,” according to Father Ranzino. It begins the evening of Holy Thursday and ends the evening of Easter Sunday.

Father Ranzino noted that Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday, encompasses the ending of Lent, the beginning of a new liturgical season that includes the celebration of Easter and “really becomes the doorway that leads us into what we call the Easter season.”

“The feast is so big it can’t be contained in just one celebration,” said Father Ranzino. “We have 40 days of Lent, well, we have 50 days of Easter.

“You know one backdrop to this whole week of what we call Holy Week is what we call the paschal mystery and that’s the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. That’s the whole story right there.”

On Wednesday of Holy Week, Bishop Michael G. Duca will bless the oils used throughout the new liturgical year at a Chrism Mass, scheduled for  10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge. On Holy Thursday, only one Mass is allowed in the evening, according to Father Ranzino, which includes two major events: “the washing of the feet and the giving of the Eucharist.” Both actions, he noted, are “different ways of saying communion.”

“We’re doing communion in the washing of the feet and we’re doing communion in the sharing of the body and the blood of Christ – the justice aspect of service,” continued Father Ranzino. “That’s one of the demands that comes from receiving Holy Communion. One is to go out and love thy neighbor as a way of showing love for God.”

Holy Thursday Mass ends with the procession of the Blessed Sacrament followed by adoration vigil. The practice “harkens back to the early Christian community in Jerusalem,” Father Ranzino said.

“They would stay all night. They would keep vigil, looking forward to the Easter celebrations.”

Good Friday commemorates the death of Jesus through the Stations of the Cross and Holy Saturday includes the Easter Vigil and the Easter fire, which lights the candles of the faithful before Mass and the new sanctuary light, representing Christ as our light, according to Father Ranzino.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calls the Easter Tridduum the summit of the liturgical year, stating, “Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s paschal mystery.”

In preparing for this new liturgical season, Father Ranzino said “drop out” during Holy Week. In other words, fast from “preoccupations that distract us from the things of God.” He also suggested the faithful go to Holy Thursday Mass, the Good Friday liturgical service and the Easter Vigil Mass.

“I tell my community on Passion Sunday, ‘If you’ve been keeping a good Lent you have three days to go. If you haven’t begun Lent you have three days to go. Get into it. You can do it. You have a three-day Lent because a new season starts Holy Thursday night.’ ”

“You should be tired by the end of Holy Week. People should be tired because they would have given themselves. This is really the week of faith expressed through the church. You don’t keep Holy Week by yourself. You keep it with others, with the church,” said Father Ranzino.