Focusing on prayer and hope during Holy Week


Last updated 4/8/2020 at 4:37pm | View PDF

Watching a livestream of Palm Sunday Mass was a strange experience. Ordinarily, Palm Sunday is a day that begins with a jubilant procession into the church, the congregation waving palm branches in imitation of the crowds that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem. The rite goes from celebratory to solemn as we recall Christ’s passion and death.

Yesterday, though, I watched a priest in an all but empty church preside over the “source and summit of the Catholic faith” — the Mass. A few singers and musicians were also present, all at safe distances from one another, in order to bring the dimension of sacred music to the event. The priest celebrated the entire Mass, including consecrating and taking in the precious body and blood of Christ. Yet none of us was able to share in that communal meal due to the pandemic that has changed so much about our lives.

We enter Holy Week — the week before Easter — in an unprecedented way: separate from each other, perhaps fearful, and most of all, carrying our private crosses as Jesus was forced to carry his to his death. In a sense, this Holy Week more than any in our lifetime brings us closer to the aloneness Jesus must have felt as his followers deserted him and gave him up to be crucified, a hideous and ignominious death.

The reading of the passion story at Palm Sunday Mass is always very emotional for me. It is such a sorrowful tale, and it reminds me of how much evil and heartbreak there is in this world. Yesterday my emotions were heightened by my fears and anxiety. Will my loved ones and I come out of this alive and healthy? Will our country survive the stress and partisanship that preceded the coronavirus outbreak and has not diminished even in the face of a common enemy? What will the world look like in a month, two months, a year?

The unreal nature of our situation will continue to be evident throughout Holy Week as we miss the opportunity to share in person the rites of foot washing on Holy Thursday, veneration of the cross on Good Friday and most of all, the glorious celebration of Resurrection at Easter.

Yet we of the Christian faith can find solace in our belief that Jesus Christ has won the victory over sin and death. Evil and war and disease will not have the last word.

May this week be one of introspection, prayer and hope. And may the joy of Easter shine in our hearts no matter our physical circumstances.

— Mary Rayis of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist.


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