LITURGY CORNER #7: The Days of Awe.
Some Jews have an expression they use to refer to their high holy days. They call them: "the days of awe." It is a fitting title to the days that encompass the heart of their understanding of their relationship with God. How much more then should we as Christians, who live in the actual fulfilment of all that the Jews hoped for, see these coming days, this Holy Week, as Days of Awe? On the first of the Three Days, Holy Thursday, to prepare our hearts (even as Jesus used it to prepare the hearts of those early apostles, that they may have the strength to endure what was to come) to celebrate His saving death, He gives us His Holy Body and Blood, forever transcending and transforming Passover into His Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There we receive, no longer simply the commemoration of the bread of haste that our spiritual ancestors ate as they fled from the slavery of Egypt, but Jesus Himself, Body and Blood, soul and Divinity. By that same action, He established in His Church His priesthood, that He may be made sacramentally present to His People until the time of His Return, nourishing them with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation. That priesthood which we solemnly reaffirm that morning at the Chrism Mass, where all the priests gather in the Cathedral Church and, solemnly united with their bishop, once again lay down their lives in holy covenant with the Lord Jesus, the great High Priest, that they may serve the People He has sent them to, offering them Jesus Himself, the Bread of Life. Strengthened by that Holy Bread and Saving Cup, we have the grace and courage we need to face the second of the days, Good Friday, during which we recall to our minds and hearts again the Passion and Death of the Lord, as we see once more the magnitude of His Love poured for us on the Crossˇˇthe Cross we then venerate as a sign of our surrender to Him. The Jews celebrate, with great solemnity, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. What a greater wonder it is for us, to actually celebrate the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement: Good Friday, when the Atonement itself actually happensˇˇnot the result of an animal sacrifice or ritual prayer, but the celebration of the lifeˇgiving atonement of the Incarnate Son of God Himself, as He pours Himself out for us on the Cross.
Then, after a day of waiting and prayer, we gather together as a People, encouraging each other as we listen to the Holy Word of God, keeping a sacred Vigil. We immerse ourselves in His Word, which calls us to have faith in His saving acts and trust in His Return, until the moment our hearts long for, when the Light once more shines in the darkness and the Alleluia once more breaks forth: He is Risen! Glory! Alleluia! He is Risen!
This year we will also have the great joy of receiving into full communion with Jesus and His Church those whom He has sent to our parish community of faith, who have prepared themselves by study and prayer and now wish to join their lives to ours. What a great joy that is, what a sign of hope for us! What Days of Awe indeed!