Column: Church has brought Jerusalem to us through Holy Week liturgies

Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.
Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.

by Michael Podrebarac

Historical tours are among the most popular forms of international travel today.

For us Christians, the ultimate historical tour is a pilgrimage. Throughout our Christian history, we have ventured to various historical sites of our faith. A religious pilgrimage is a most hoped-for experience for many.

That’s why the church celebrates Holy Week. From Palm Sunday, when we gather to recall Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, to Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the Lord’s appearing to his disciples, we are actually on a pilgrimage.

It’s not merely a “memory” pilgrimage, but one that connects us to those ancient days of triumph, intrigue, betrayal, murder, confusion and final triumph. Holy Week and the Triduum allow us to truly travel to that time, nearly 2000 years ago, when Jesus turned the whole world upside down and won for us our salvation.

This is what the fourth-century pilgrim Egeria discovered when she traveled throughout the Holy Land and experienced the Holy Week liturgies in Jerusalem. Like today, the local Christians in Palestine celebrated Palm Sunday at the very spot where Jesus entered the city walls, and they imitated the devotions of those who greeted him with olive branches, palm fronds and shouts of praise.

They celebrated Holy Thursday at the site of the Upper Room, where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood and washed his disciples’ feet.

They went to the Garden of Gethsemane and kept prayerful watch with the Lord. They followed Jesus on Good Friday from the court of Pontius Pilate to the place where he was crucified. They kept quiet vigil at the tomb where he was buried.

They began Easter in that same garden, beginning Holy Saturday night, and met the risen Lord among his disciples the following morning.

Egeria’s diaries came to influence how Western Christians commemorated the last week of the Lord’s earthly life. We call this week Holy Week and experience an annual historical and spiritual journey through the liturgy. Not all of us are as privileged, as Egeria was, to have been able to travel to Jerusalem. So the church has brought Jerusalem to us in the liturgy!

The archdiocesan office for liturgy will host two mornings of reflection during which we will make an “inspection tour” of what awaits us on Palm Sunday and thereafter.

“This Is the Triduum” will be offered March 16 at St. Ann in Prairie Village (7231 Mission Road) and March 23 at St. Matthew in Topeka (2700 S.E. Virginia) from 9:45- 11:45 a.m. All are welcome to attend one of these no-cost sessions, and to then join us on our annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land this March 24- 31, free of charge.

Space is not limited, and all connections are guaranteed!

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