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Reflections on Holy Week

Growing up, Holy Week always meant one thing to me: lots of church. Instead of the usual weekly mass that my traditional Catholic family normally attended, there was Holy Thursday mass and Good Friday service on top of it. And don’t even get me started on the Easter Vigil, a grueling three-hour Saturday night service that would actually be really beautiful and enjoyable if I didn’t have the attention span of a toddler.

Nowadays, Holy Week seems to arrive with less and less fanfare each year. For the climax of 40 days worth of Lenten struggle and self-denial, the mere four days celebrating Holy Week feel more like a rushed conclusion than satisfying ending. Perhaps this is because Holy Week is not meant to be a conclusion.

While the passion, death and resurrection of Christ are undoubtedly the most important events in history for the Christian faith, what happens afterward is just as important. None of the gospels end with the Resurrection narrative. In fact, as if to serve as a microcosm of Holy Week, pages upon pages of each gospel are spent on the passion narrative. It is built up in Jesus’ words and deeds at the Last Supper and in the garden, intensifies in Jesus’ trial and carrying of His cross, climaxes with His death and is concluded beautifully with His rising from the dead. Yet, then it just seems to end, with a few brief vignettes of Jesus with His disciples (depending on which gospel you’re reading) followed swiftly by His ascension into Heaven. We know it’s not the end though; there is another whole book yet to come.

Like I said before, Holy Week may feel like an unsatisfying conclusion namely because it isn’t one at all. It’s the beginning of the Easter season, one as much about continued growth as it is about rebirth. We expend so much spiritual energy during the Lenten season striving to better ourselves for Easter that we are often just relieved to finally reach our destination. We give things up and deny ourselves, but as soon as Easter arrives we immediately rush back to these pleasures as if to make up for lost time.

As we begin this Easter season, let us strive to continue to grow and change the way we did during Lent. The disciples, guided by the Holy Spirit, went forth into the world to preach the gospel and perform good works. Those men and women filled the entire book of Acts with their deeds. In keeping with their example, why not make a resolution this Easter season to make a difference in the lives of others as they did? During Lent, we grow through prayer, reflection and self-denial. During Easter, we grow by proclaiming the Gospel, serving our fellow brothers and sisters and putting into practice that which we have learned.

Don’t allow Holy Week to be the end of a 40-day story, but use it as the beginning of a much longer one.

Christ has conquered death. Let’s live.

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