Passiontide. Today we enter into that part of the season of Lent called “Passiontide,” a time when we more intently and somberly focus our attention on Christ’s Passion. We try, in effect, to take ourselves 2000 years back in time and walk with Jesus in those last days before Good Friday. We mark this in a very dramatic way by covering the statues and crucifixes in our churches: Good Friday has not yet happened, so there is no cross yet; Easter has not happened, so no saints are in heaven. Keep this in mind in the coming days: “I’m walking with Jesus, and Peter and the apostles…With Judas. With John, and Mary Magdalene… Walking toward Jerusalem, stopping in Bethany, going to the temple….I’m in the Upper Room, at the Last Supper…In the house of Caiaphas…In the palace of Pilate…Standing with Blessed Mary as they scourge her little boy….”
The bodily/physical reminders of these days are so important to our experiencing the meaning of the season—Jesus created us in bodies, and came and spoke to us and suffered and died in His body. Which is why it’s so important to experience the mysteries of this season “in the flesh.” One way we do this is through the physical acts of penance we give ourselves: the minor suffering of our personal Lenten sacrifices (giving up sweets or video games, or fasting or abstaining from meat on Fridays) because they remind us of the sufferings of Christ, and His love for us.
But another very important way we experience this in the flesh is through the outward signs of our liturgical and prayer practices. So, please, come to the church and physically take part in the various sacraments, liturgies and other pious activities of the Church and parish in the next few weeks.
I strongly encourage all of you to take advantage of the extra confession times (we’ll have at least 2 priests hearing at most times, and sometimes 3 or 4). Please note a change from the original Lenten schedule: weekday confessions will begin at 6:00 pm (not 6:30 pm). I also encourage you to go to one or more weekday Masses and spend time in Adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, especially during hours of Exposition on Wednesday and Friday. In particular, please participate in praying the Stations of the Cross, especially in the church—you can do so either privately or on Friday evening at 6:30 with other parishioners led by a priest.
I also strongly encourage you to attend next Sunday’s (Palm/Passion Sunday, April 13) Living Stations of the Cross acted out by our youth group a little after the 5:00 pm Mass. As last year, the Living Stations will take place outside (pray for good weather! If not, we will be in the Parish Hall). Come and both support our youth and enter more deeply into the mystery of the Lord’s suffering.
Also next Sunday, Palm/Passion Sunday, April 13, please consider coming to the 8:45 Mass and joining in the Solemn Procession with Palms at the beginning of Mass. Those who would like to join in the procession should gather inside the Parish Hall before 8:45 and then, after some prayers and a Gospel reading, process outside, and enter the church from the front, taking their pews as normal. All this should take about 10 minutes. We will be reserving pews for those who join in the procession, if they call (703-440-0535) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) the office during the week (you need not call to join the procession). If you attend the 8:45 Mass you may also simply take your seats in the church before Mass as usual and listen over the speakers in the church to everything said/sung in the Parish Hall.
Holy Week. Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord is, of course, the beginning of Holy Week. Next Sunday we will include a schedule for Holy Week in the bulletin, but I ask you now to plan ahead today. These are the most solemn and sacred days of the Christian year, marked by special and unique liturgies, including Holy Thursday’s evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with the washing of the feet and the solemn procession and silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight—“can you not watch one hour with me?” Then there’s Good Friday’s Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, with the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion, which begins at 3pm—the hour of the Lord’s death. And finally, the Easter Vigil at the end of Holy Saturday evening.
As your spiritual father I beg you to try to participate in all of these liturgies that are so important to experiencing the fullness of Catholic prayer in Holy Week. I especially recommend that you attend the 3:00 pm Good Friday service, with the Veneration of the Cross. The last three years I have been amazed and moved to see standing-room-only crowds. Last year well-over a 1100 people stood in line patiently, many in tears, to venerate the cross of Christ. Some say, “but it’s a work day!” But I say: “it’s the hour of the Lord’s death! The most sacred hour in all time! Why would any Catholic want to be at work?”
And finally, I remind you that on Holy Saturday afternoon—a day which is supposed to be marked by the quiet somberness of Good Friday—we will once again be showing Mel Gibson’s incredible film “The Passion of the Christ” in the Parish Hall, beginning with a short talk by myself. This powerful movie is so helpful in reminding us what Holy Saturday is all about. I especially encourage those of you who began Lent by watching the movie “Mary of Nazareth” with us, to join us again for this moving film. (Note: Parents should use their discretion in bringing children to this graphic movie).
Blessed Relief in the “Family Room.” As was announced last weekend, we have a new heating and air-conditioning system in the Family/“Cry” Room. Because of some unique aspects of the church’s huge HVAC system, this room is usually too hot or too cold, and so very uncomfortable for families. After struggling to find a solution we decided to install a separate ductless system dedicated just to this room. Judging from comments from parishioners after Masses last weekend, I think we’ve solved the problem. So, moms and dads, I encourage you to make use of the Family Room, as often as you need it, without “feeling like you’re in Purgatory.”
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles