Fr Patrick Bridgman
The Lenten season draws to a close; the reception of Ashes one Wednesday now seems long since, and our Lenten practices, which were a mix of going without and doing something positive for others have been of variable success.
Palm Sunday dawns and we enter the week known as Holy. It will contain processions, oils, promises, songs and scriptures, which lead us to the beginning of the Triduum; the three most holy days when we will remember suffering, death and finally the truth of Resurrection.
On Palm Sunday we begin our Holy Week with Palms aloft as we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The ritual offers three alternatives to our remembrance. The community is invited to gather away from the church where the Mass will be celebrated, even at a smaller church, so that a procession can take place.
A Gospel account of the entry to Jerusalem is proclaimed, and then the people with the priest attired in red vestments, chasuble or cope, process chanting psalms and ‘Hosannas!’ while waving branches. Or a Solemn procession can take place from in front of the church or within it. Again the Gospel account is proclaimed, and the branches blessed, and the priest with the people process into the nave.
And finally there is the Simple Entrance at other Masses when with appropriate hymn or song the usual procession proceeds and the people hold branches previously blessed.
Within the Palm Sunday Mass the Passion of the Lord will be proclaimed from one of the synoptic Gospels, depending on the Liturgical Year; Matthew – Year A, Mark – Year B, Luke – Year C, while John’s account is proclaimed each year on Good Friday.
On Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday we listen to the Suffering Servant from the Prophet Isaiah, and in the Gospels of John and Matthew we hear of the intrigues of Judas Iscariot and pending betrayal.
And finally on the morning of Holy Thursday, or depending on the Diocesan calendar it can be on an earlier day, the people and priest gather for the Chrism Mass.
The Chrism Mass, also known as the Mass of the Oils, is the celebration when the mission of the Anointed One is proclaimed, and the priests of the diocese, gathered with the Bishop and the people, renew their priestly promises.
The Diocesan Bishop blesses and consecrates the Holy Oils with which people will be anointed in the year ahead in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. The Oils are then distributed to representatives of the parishes, religious communities, and chaplaincies.
This is a wonderful opportunity for the whole diocese to be represented surrounding their Bishop at the Altar, and so being a visible sign of the Church; the Good Shepherd with the flock.
The Triduum now beacons with the great celebrations of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, where the Holy Oils will be received and the parish will fall into reverent prayerful silence in the garden, and the Passion of the Lord, followed by the silence of Holy Saturday, and the Alleluias that will proclaim the Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord!
Fr Patrick Bridgman is parish priest of the Parish of Te Awakairangi, Liturgy adviser for the Archdiocese of Wellington and teaches TCI courses on Sacraments and Liturgy.