By: Sr. Clare Hunter
Have you ever wondered why the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week don’t get a special name? I have. We have quite the entrance on Passion (Palm) Sunday by publicly processing, singing and carrying palms. We read the very long Gospel and wince as we shout out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” After the celebration of an intense liturgy, it feels like we are just getting started, and then we have to stop for three days, only to rev up again for the big line up of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and finally Easter Sunday.
For many years, my Community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, have put a special spiritual focus on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. By looking at the readings and the Gospels and meditating on the life of Christ as He anticipates His passion, we take each day and focus on a particular mystery to help us prepare for the Triduum.
Monday is a day of extravagance. “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (Jn 12:3). Mary Magdalene gives all to Jesus, not merely the expensive oil, but her very self. She uses her hands and hair to anoint Him, affecting each person present. This extravagant gesture of her love for Jesus is merely an imitation of His extravagant offering of Himself. We too are called to imitate Christ in offering our lives to the Father. We are challenged on the Monday of Holy Week to look at our own acts of generosity and pouring out of self. Are we giving our best to serve God and others? Are we grateful and receptive to the extravagant love of God and others?
“So Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly’” (Jn 13:27). On Tuesday, we ponder the reality of what must be completed in order for the chain of events to transpire for our redemption. Jesus Christ knows what must be done in order to declare: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (Jn 13:31). This day may offer us an opportunity to put into order those obstacles which might be hindering our openness to the graces of Holy Week, or to tasks that need to be completed to free us to pray and be present to the liturgies of the Triduum. This might be the day we stop procrastinating and decide to go to confession, forgive others or make a discernment that we have been avoiding.
Wednesday’s reading from Isaiah speaks of the Man who has been anointed to be a voice for God, will be abused, yet with the Father’s help, will complete the mission of redemption. Jesus tells the disciples: “My appointed time draws near,” as He orders the Passover meal. As Jesus instructs his disciples, and confronts Judas, there is a sense that Christ has embraced His mission. He knows that He alone can redeem man in accordance with the Father’s Will. Wednesday of Holy Week is a perfect day to spend time reflecting on our own God-given mission. We share solidarity with Jesus in the joys, fears and determination that accompany embracing our personal cross. This is a day of “aloneness” before the Father. We are preparing to say: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
I am so grateful that my Community has looked to these “unnamed” days as a way to enter into a deeper understanding and celebration of Holy Week. The sequence of the week is a natural progression in preparing our minds and hearts for the sacred Triduum. On Passion Sunday, we publically show that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the King and Son of God, who exemplifies the Father’s extravagant love. How fitting to have the next day to ponder this mystery. We instinctually would want to respond to that love and know the compulsion to complete the tasks and events which will set in motion an adequate response. Quickly, we become aware that we alone, with the help of the Father, must complete this act of love. It is with this in mind that we enter into the Triduum, reflecting on the cost of our redemption and the profundity of Christ’s body and blood freely given to us in the Eucharist. Blessings on this sacred week.