Triptych: The Two Thieves with the Empty Cross, The Entombment, The Resurrection, by Robert Campin, 1415; on display at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Spiritual Life

Celebrating the ‘high’ holy days of Holy Week, Easter

It’s a truly special time of grace! Every year in early springtime (late March through mid-April), Christians throughout the world celebrate their most solemn “high” holy days in a time we appropriately call “Holy Week.” On Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with palm branches and the proclamation of the passion account (this year – from the Gospel of Luke.)

On Monday in our archdiocese, Sacred Chrism and other holy oils are blessed by the archbishop at the Cathedral. Thursday evening’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper with the Washing of Feet begins the Triduum, the three-day celebration of the Paschal Mystery – the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Each of the celebrations are filled with drama, beauty, pageantry and symbolism. If you’ve never attended services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Holy Saturday, I’d encourage you to make this a priority. 

Our journey of renewal began nearly 40 days ago. At the beginning of Lent, we put ashes on our foreheads: a sobering reminder of our mortality and a stark invitation to identify what needs to die, to be burned away in order for us to grow spiritually. Our discipline of prayer, fasting (or giving things up), and almsgiving/giving to the poor were meant to help us grasp more completely the invitation of Jesus Christ to a deeper relationship with him, a deeper awareness of his life and love within our hearts.

During this season of Lent, we took a good honest look at ourselves and it revealed some of our pettiness, pride, and selfishness. We have struggled with our weaknesses and broken promises. We long and yearn for something new, for a power and strength to awaken us and put some vitality back into our tired, stressful and seemingly empty lives.

With Easter we reach our destination. The Resurrection challenges us to see the gift of life right here: before our very eyes! The love of God in Jesus Christ is healing us and eagerly encouraging the very best in us. It’s not a matter of what we need to do or accomplish. Rather, it’s opening ourselves to receive the mind-blowing gift of God’s unconditional love and letting a new spirit of energy, love and hope emerge in every facet of our lives.

Easter pushes us out of the tombs of self- absorption and challenges us to discover fulfillment in living a life centered beyond ourselves. Easter throws us out of the lifeless cemeteries of loneliness and isolation and thrusts us into the loving embrace of Christ in our family, church and community. Easter dares us to look around the rocks we stumble over and find paths of peace and forgiveness. Jesus is alive – in our hearts, in our faith community, in our world. He is not bound by burial cloths of hopelessness and cynicism. He is no longer entombed by fear and distrust.

The celebration of Christ’s resurrection only begins on Easter Sunday. For another 50 days in the Easter Season, we will become immersed in the mystery of the Risen Christ. Let us rejoice and be glad!  Christ has risen! Alleluia!

Father Dennis Hanneman is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha.