The Humility of Holy Week

Pope Francis on Palm SundayYesterday Pope Francis presided over Palm Sunday festivities at St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning this week’s marathon of papal ceremonies. Among those ceremonies is a visit to a Roman prison on Holy Thursday where he will wash the feet of men and women, as well as a Via Crucis procession around the Coliseum. The papal ceremonies will reach their climax in the pope’s celebration of the Easter Vigil and his Easter day Urbi et Orbi address to the city and the world

Pope Francis’ homily for Palm Sunday focused on the humility of Christ, setting the tone for this week’s ceremonies. Elise Harris over at National Catholic Register had this to say about Pope Francis’ homily: “Pope Francis on Palm Sunday said that imitating the humility of Jesus is what makes Holy Week “holy,” and he encouraged attendees to mimic his attitude of humiliation as the week unfolds.”

Pope Francis’ call to follow Christ’s life of humility extends to us all.

While the liturgical year of the Church begins on the First Sunday of Advent, Holy Week begins the climax of the yearly self-reflection of the Church and her children on their shortcomings and their hope in the Resurrection. The Church and her children come to the foot of the cross carrying many burdens, and at the cross they are called to lay those burdens upon the Lord.

In this holiest of weeks, Pope Francis reminds us that “there can be no humility without humiliation…making room for God by stripping oneself, ‘emptying oneself.’” The process of laying down our burdens is a challenging one. To lay our burdens upon the Lord we must strip ourselves through an attitude of humility.

In his homily, Pope Francis reminds us that for some this figurative “emptying of oneself” is much more literal. Pope Francis called attention to the modern martyrs among us:

We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time — and there are many. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity.

As Holy Week begins to unfold, it is my hope that we might imitate the humility of Christ, so that on the day of the Resurrection we too might shine brightly with Christ and all his saints, especially those of our own time who give their lives as a witness to the Gospel.

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  1. This Palm Sunday week I have been meditating on “Father, forgive them”, and I will continue to do so over Holy Week. Do we know not what “they” do, whomever they are? Many times we know the people who have harmed us. They may be distant, faceless, as in the case of corporations, or close friends, family, even spouses. Even gestures can leave lasting impressions of hurt and distrust.

    The difficulty of the Passions, both the synoptic and Johannine, resides in their many layers. All are products of late antique literary genres with varying degrees of linguistic ability. All reflect the prejudices of their ages, and especially anti-Judaism particularly in the case of St. John’s Passion. For this latter point we must reflect and strive for justice. Yet also, all the Passions live for us today. The Cross is an instruction to Christians that there is no grudge, no harm, which cannot begin to heal in the Paschal Mystery.

    Yes, I do hear the Passions chanted in Latin, with a polyphonic “people’s reply”. I respect that for many on PTB this is not an adequate or even desirable way to present the Passions. I respect all presentations of these solemnities. “Father, forgive them” is also a message for liturgical peace. If we cannot forgive in front of the Cross we worship in diverse ways, then there is no true start towards reconciliation of the liturgical factions. If I want this forgiveness, it must begin with me.

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