News from San Antonio Church – March 24, 2024

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Weekly Bulletin March 24, 2024

by Terrie Evans

Palm Sunday, March 24th marks the beginning of Holy Week and the last week of the solemn liturgical season of Lent leading up to Easter.  This day commemorates the triumphant day when Jesus entered Jerusalem with crowds of people greeting him laying palm branches at his feet. Palm Sunday is celebrated with blessing and distribution of palm branches to represent the palms that were laid before Christ as he rode a donkey, considered an animal of peace, into Jerusalem.  In history, it was customary to cover the path of someone who was thought to be honored and held in the highest esteem.   In the Christian tradition, the palms will be taken to their homes and will be placed next to Christian art, kept in Bibles, or affixed to a patron saint.   In countries where palms are not available, substitutes such as box, olive, or yew may be used.  In some regions of Germany, long branches of pussy willow or other twigs are used and in Ireland, silver fir, spruce, or cypress can be substituted with Palm Sunday referred to as Yew Sunday.  In Italy, olive branches are used along with palm leaves that will be placed above their front doors.  In some churches, the priest will take an olive branch and dip it in Holy Water for blessing the congregation. In Belgium, Palm Sunday Processions will be held with the Twelve Apostles leading the townspeople while carrying a wooden statue of Christ as children go door to door offering their long branches for coins to be given to the church.  

On Palm Sunday, Pope Francis will hold a special Mass at 9:30AM at St. Peters Square, Vatican City to Bless the Palms.  In ancient times, palm branches were symbols of goodness and victory and were often displayed on buildings or stamped on coins.  At the end of the Bible, people from every nation were seen honoring Jesus by raising palm branches.   The Station Church in Rome for Palm Sunday is St. John Lateran, the mother church of Roman Catholicism worldwide.  It is the highest ranking and oldest among the great Papal Basilicas of Rome.  Located outside Vatican City, it was consecrated in 324 by Pope Sylvester I and it was where the Lateran Treaty was signed in 1929 which established Vatican City as an independent State and Catholicism as the official religion of Italy.           

Holy Monday, March 25th is the second day of Holy Week after Palm Sunday as we prepare for Easter Sunday.  Some of the events that occurred on this day was Jesus’ pleading with the fig tree for bearing no fruit.  This scene was   directed at the Jews who did not accept Jesus, symbolizing the fig tree failing to produce the fruit of righteousness (Matthew 21:18-22) (Mark11:20-26).  Another event was the Cleansing of the Temple referring to Jesus’ reaction to the money changers cheating people when he expelled the merchants and money changers from the Temple.  The money changers in the Temple were there to convert the many currencies to use for the accepted currency to pay Temple Taxes.  The cleansing of the Temple is a commonly depicted event in the Life of Christ and those who questioned   Jesus’ authority, (Matthew 21:23-27) all taking place before His entry into Jerusalem. 

On March 26th, Holy Tuesday, it is believed Jesus announced that he knew the time of His suffering and death.  Also called Great and Holy Tuesday, it commemorates the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) with the theme of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church.  The bridal chamber is used as a symbol for the Tomb of Christ. 

On March 27th, we commemorate Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday to recall the clandestine spy Judas seated among the Disciples.  On this day, Judas betrayed Jesus with plans to hand Him over to Temple authorities when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper at a supper table along with his disciples. It was then that a woman named Mary anointed Jesus’ head and feet with a very costly oil that could be sold with the money given to the poor, but   Judas wanted to sell the oil and keep the money.  This was then Judas decided to betray Jesus by offering Jesus to the Sanhedrin in exchange for money.  The Sanhedrin was the highest court and governing council with 71 members of the ancient Jewish nation presided over by the high priest of the Temple.   Judas, the spy among the disciples chose Wednesday to betray Christ.  The traditional Tenebrae (darkness) service is held on Holy Wednesday, but if you are not able to attend church, you can have a Tenebrae (Darkness) service in your own home.  The service involves gradually extinguishing 13 candles by reading Matthew 26:14-25 aloud and pausing at   the end of each verse, to extinguish one candle.  When you get to the end, one candle will still be lit with this last candle symbolizing the light of Christ. 

On March 28th, Maundy or Holy Thursday, this day commemorates the Washing of the Feet, practiced among many Christian groups.  Holy Thursday is also the Last Supper with Jesus and the Apostles and to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion, instituted by Jesus on this night.  The title Maundy comes from the Latin word commandment to reflect Jesus’ words “I give you a new commandment.”  This introduces us to the Paschal Triduum for the days that commemorate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.  In Roman Catholicism, the Chrism Mass is celebrated in each diocese, usually at the Cathedral as a celebration for priests, ministers, and deacons to renew the promises made at their ordination.  It was on the night of Holy Thursday that Jesus instituted the Priesthood and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Those also present at the Chrism Mass are called on to renew their baptismal promises.  Chrism takes its name from the holy oils, olive or vegetable oils consecrated by a Bishop for use in liturgical anointings at Baptisms, Confirmation, Holy Orders, the blessing of an altar, and in olden days, the coronation of a king.  These holy oils to be used in the sacraments throughout the year will be given to priests to take back to their parishes.  The term Holy Thursday is more commonly used in Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the United States where it is used in its modern English language liturgical books.   In countries around the world there is the tradition of visiting 7 or more churches on Holy Thursday, a practice that originated in Rome.  In Malta, Holy Thursday is known as Communion Thursday with the tradition of visiting 7 churches called “is-seba’ visiti”.   In India, the custom is to visit 14 churches on the evening of Maundy Thursday a tradition many   families have done on the Thursday before Easter.  In the Philippines. Holy Thursday is called Visita Iglesia, as the faithful will visit churches for prayer and recite the stations of the Cross.   Many churches cover their statues and crucifixes with purple cloths during the last 2 weeks of Lent, Passiontide.  For Holy Thursday, white covers can be used on the statues instead of the very somber purple. 

On March 29th we solemnly honor Good Friday, the day that commemorates the Passion and Death of Christ for the salvation of the world.  It is observed during Holy Week as a Part of the Paschal Triduum with fasting and church services.  The Service of the Great Three Hours Agony is held from noon until three as Jesus sacrificial death on the cross in the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist Churches.  The day is set aside for worship services, prayer fasting and almsgiving and in the Moravian Church, a tradition if for the members to clean the headstones in the Moravian Cemeteries.  The afternoon liturgy on Good Friday is called “The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion “and consists of the Liturgy of the Word, Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.  The Liturgy of the Word takes place when the clergy and those assisting ministers enter in complete silence and make a full prostration to symbolize the grief and sorrow of the Church.   Afterwords, special intentions will be said with those in attendance kneeling for a short private prayer.  Then the veneration of the Cross will take place as it is laid near the altar to be honored by the whole congregation kneeling to kiss the Cross.  For the final part of the Mass the Eucharist, consecrated on Holy Thursday, is distributed.  Afterwards, the priest and the congregation will depart in silence, the altar cloth will   be removed leaving the altar bare and it is customary to empty the holy water fonts to prepare for the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil. 

On Holy Saturday, March 30th, the Sacraments are not celebrated on this day except the Sacrament of Penance and the emergency administration for Anointing the sick.  On this day, the Church keeps vigil at the Tomb of Our Savior.  The Office of Readings and Morning Prayer are celebrated with Midday Prayer and Vespers also are celebrated.  The Easter Vigil will begin at sundown.  Also called Joyous Saturday, it is the final day of Holy Week.

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