Today marks the start of Holy Week. The special liturgies celebrated this week in the various rites, Eastern & Western, are the oldest in existence. They go back to the early years of the Church, especially the Easter Vigil. These liturgies are also my favorite ever since I started attending them as a child.
While the liturgies for the Triduum cover the events of that day, the liturgy for Palm Sunday covers the majority of the events. The liturgy opens with the blessing of the palms & a gospel reading about the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The joyous Hosannas ring out as we process into Church from where the blessing took place. Weather permitting that is, since the snow prevented that. But the basic symbolism is still there.
A few minutes later the entire mood changes as 1 of the 3 synoptic versions of the Passion is read. Also there are some differences between how the Passion Gospel is read today (& Good Friday). One of those is that rather than the usual greeting, you simply hear "The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to. . . ."
But the biggest difference with this longer than usual Gospel is that it isn't read by the priest. Instead the priest reads only the words of Jesus, one person reads the narration, another the various things individuals say & the congregation reads the things said by a crowd.
While some PC modern liturgists have encouraged having 3 people take turns reading the Gospel, having the congregation read those parts has always served as a reminder to me of my part in why Jesus had to die, my sins had to be paid for. Of course that is exactly what those liurgeists don't want us to do. But enough about that.
For me another huge part of today that also serves as a reminder of my sins is what happens to the blessed palm when I get home.
Those branches start out like this:
What ends up happening to most of the fronds is that they are made into crosses.
I learned the art of doing this as a child from my beloved Italiano grandpa, Giovanni Stasi. In one sense, making them is simple, in another it does take a little skill.
But the point is, making the palm into crosses is an old Italiano tradition (as well as for others). It serves as a reminder of how easily we can turn from following Jesus to denying Him by our sins.
I keep a cross in my car. Additionally, I put a palm cross behind a religious picture in most rooms. With one exception. The crucifix I have in my kitchen
As you can see I put 3 branches behind it, one for each member of the Holy Trinity. Although at our house when I was a child we would put a cross & a palm basket made by another Italiano. But whatever way they are displayed, they all serve as additional reminder of how the only way the price of our sins could be paid was by the death of an innocent victim. Because our sins are against God, no matter how small, no sinful human could pay the price. So, in order for God's justice to be met, in His Mercy He sent His only Son, fully divine & fully human at the same time, to pay the price.
Which leads me to my main point. This whole week is a celebration of that Divine Mercy. Jesus died for our sins. He enables us to receive mercy rather than the punishment we deserve.
Jesus died for our sins. But we have to respond. The 1st response is in baptism, whether as a infant or an adult. At that point all stain of sin is wiped away. Original only for an infant. But actual sins as well for adults. Baptism causes an ontological change in us, making us the children of God.
For Catholics of the Latin rite, confirmation is supposed to serve as the saying yes to what was said as an infant for us. But whether confirmation or chrismation, that sacrament gives us the fullness of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. With the Hoy Spirit we can receive the gifts He gives to live that life as a child of God we are meant to live.
Additionally, the sacrament of the Eucharist was given to us to nourish us spiritually so we can have the strength to follow Him, among other things.
But we still fall. This is why we have the sacrament of Confession. Yes, we can ask God for forgiveness directly. But the sacrament gives us the assurance, if we make a good confession, that our sins are forgiven. Additionally, through that sacrament we are given the graces needed to help us reform & turn away from those sins. I could go on about the other sacraments as well. All of them are wells of God's mercy.
But I want to get back to the main theme of Divine Mercy. This week is a clarion call for us to tap into that mercy. We are reminded as at no other time of the year that God could have simply turned His back on us & literally let us go to hell.
Instead, He provided, as I pointed out, the way we can receive all the mercy we need.
Part of God's plan for helping us to do so is through the private revelations he made to St. Faustina. He called her to be the apostle of His Divine Mercy. One of the tools he gave was the Novena of Divine Mercy. The Novena begins on Good Friday & runs through the Saturday after Easter. The next day is the Feast of Divine Mercy
There is not a single person alive who doesn't need God's mercy. I know how much I need it. Despite my best efforts, I still fall. I don't presume on God's Mercy to justify sinning. But when I do, I call on it.
From the beginning, through the time of St. Faustina, up to now, God keeps calling us to His Mercy, no matter how many times we fall, no matter how bad our sins. God still calls to us. I challenge you to learn more about God's Mercy, especially as revealed in the Divine Mercy devotion. In addition to the 2 links already provided, you can find out more here at the website for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
As an aside, the Rosary you see in the picture of my sick-call crucifix is the one I received 51 years ago when I received my 1st Communion. In my younger days, it saw its share of use. Now it is retired to a place of honor & a reminder to pray the Rosary as well as the Divine Mercy Chaplet regularly.