By Renée Smith
“Holy Week is definitely one of the most sacred times of the Church’s liturgical calendar where many ritual re-enactments of the last week of Jesus’ life on earth are reinvoked with remembrance and power. It’s a deep movement within,” said Fr Robert Christo, Vicar for Communications, while sharing the importance of celebrating the Easter Triduum rite.
He was speaking on last Tuesday’s Breakfast with the Deacons to inform the faithful that their participation in Holy Week comes with great spiritual gain. The cable television programme is a collaborative production between Trinity Communications Network and CAMSEL (Catholic Media Services Ltd).
Fr Christo explained that the liturgies and ritual re-enactments commence from Palm Sunday (the start of Holy Week) where Christians commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem for the completion of the Paschal Mystery.
The Penal parish priest noted the Palm Sunday procession and Good Friday “walk” should not be treated like a parade but rather a “procession with a destiny”.
“As we process, we must stay focused and know that we are moving towards a definite goal. Let us not be people who walk in a parade to be seen but walking towards a destiny, a life ahead or a new resurrected life promised,” said Fr Christo.
He added these processions should also be viewed as an evangelical tool for non-Catholics while for Catholics it is a call to deep, prayerful reflection of the Triduum and the Church’s structure of Holy Week.
Triduum is a Latin word which refers to a period of three days and is most often used to describe the three days prior to the great feast of Easter: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil and Resurrection Mass.
From his experiences overseas, he sees Holy Week often becoming a bit “commercialised” and traditions forgotten. In Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean, however, the essence of Holy Week is deeply engaging with great opportunities for inculturation given our unique traditions, language and art forms. “I think we really have to celebrate our culture and the mere fact that we have kept so many of our Holy Week traditions alive.”
Many of the rituals are kept alive and relevant by incorporating some ‘theo-drama’ into the liturgy—using drama to expound theological truths. However, amidst the theatrical elements he stressed the importance of Catholics knowing the underlying catechesis and theology so the rituals do not become meaningless.
Lent ends at the Holy Thursday’s Evening Prayer “but it does not mean that the fast be broken immediately”. Instead: “We enter into a new and deeper ‘fast of anticipation’ which begins after the evening prayer of Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil.”
Pointing out the Triduum is one celebration which should not be broken nor be treated as separate events, he said, “You can’t miss any of the solemnities. The Easter Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.”
The Church celebrates the Easter season or Eastertide from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday where the first eight days of Easter or ‘Easter Octave’ are celebrated as Solemnities. Fr Christo urged the faithful to be more celebratory and joyful during the seven weeks of the Easter season.
Agreeing with Pope Francis that Holy Week can be “bittersweet in nature”, Fr Christo said it was because of Christ’s journey of suffering, passion, death and resurrection. He added, “Never forget the Resurrection is the greatest thing that has happened to us and as Christ promised in the Book of Revelation: ‘He came to make all things anew’.”
On the set with Fr Christo was Valerie Bethel, former principal of Holy Faith Convent, Penal. Rev Derek Walcott was the host presenter.