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Lots of mysterious words...

Alleluia! He is risen!

“Now let the heavens be joyful,

Let earth her song begin:

Let the round world keep triumph,

And all that is therein;

Invisible and visible,

Their notes let all things blend,

For Christ the Lord is risen

Our joy that hath no end.”

- Saint John of Damascus

The season of Lent is over, we have completed Holy Week and the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil), and we celebrate the great joy of Easter!

But wait. Lent? Holy Week? Triduum? Maundy Thursday? Good Friday? Holy Saturday? Easter Vigil? Even Easter itself? Many people, some of them professing Christians, don’t fully understand what these mysterious words mean. So let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about…

Lent (or, in Latin, Quadragesima meaning “fortieth”) is the solemn Christian religious observance commemorating the forty days Jesus spent (according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in the Bible) fasting in the desert and enduring temptation by Satan before beginning his public ministry. Lent begins (for Western Christians) on Ash Wednesday and ends about six weeks later. The timing is different for Eastern (i.e., Orthodox) Christians because of their use of a different calendar. But for both Western and Eastern Christians, it is a period (when it begins) of grief, the purpose of which is the preparation of the Christian for Easter through prayer, mortifying the flesh (i.e., subduing the body’s needs and desires through discipline), repentance of sins, almsgiving (i.e., giving to the poor), simple living, and self-denial.

For most Western Christians, the last week of Lent coincides with Holy Week, which is the most important and sacred week in the Christian calendar. Palm Sunday (also known as Passion Sunday) marks the start of Holy Week and is the day on which we remember and honor Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. As He entered the city on a donkey, people gathered and laid palm branches and their cloaks across His path while shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The palm symbolized victory in the ancient Mediterranean world. We fill our churches with palm branches and weave palm leaves into crosses. The palm leaves are blessed by the priest during Mass. We take the blessed palm crosses home and, since they’re blessed, they must be burned or buried (i.e., returned to the earth) or we bring them back the following year to be burned to make ashes which will then be drawn on the foreheads of believers next Ash Wednesday. Here is my wife, with her palm cross, praying in the chapel at one of our churches on Palm Sunday…

Woman praying in a Catholic chapel on Palm Sunday

Holy Week continues and reaches its high point with the Easter (or Sacred or Paschal) Triduum. Triduum denotes the 3 days from the evening of Maundy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Triduum is Latin and comes from tris (“three”) + dies (“day”).

On Maundy Thursday, we celebrate (at an evening Mass) the last meal Jesus shared with his Twelve Apostles before his arrest, torture and death.

On Good Friday, we recall the Passion (the short final period before Jesus’s death) and crucifixion, usually by walking the Stations of the Cross and venerating the cross. It is a solemn day of fasting and reflection. My wife and I typically watch the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ in the evening, and we inevitably weep while doing so. This year we watched with our dear friends and their children, including the six-year-old (ML) who is also our little teacher (i.e., nuestra pequeña profesora) and takes every opportunity to instruct us in the faith (which she has a shockingly strong comprehension of ❤). The scene that always gets me is when Jesus falls while carrying the cross and his mother Mary runs to him. She embraces her bloody, beaten son and tells him, “I’m here.” He looks at her and responds, “See, Mother, I make all things new.” Then he is forced by the brutal Roman soldiers to pick up his cross and march onward toward his horrific death. You can see it here. Here are my wife and I venerating the cross in one of our churches on Good Friday…

Venerating the cross on Good Friday

On Holy Saturday, we commemorate Jesus laying in his tomb. After nightfall, the Easter Vigil (a late night service of Mass that starts in complete darkness before we light candles) finds us awaiting the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection. Here are my wife and I with nuestra pequeña profesora (ML) and our candles during the vigil…

Candles at the Easter Vigil

And on Easter (also known as Resurrection Sunday), we rejoice at the resurrection of Jesus. This single event defines the Christian religion and what our lives center on. In a future blog post, I will discuss the significant evidence for the historicity of the resurrection. But for now, simply know that it is on this day that we Christians proclaim: “Alleluia! He is risen!

Why am I explaining some of the mysterious words we Christians use at this time of year?

Two reasons. First, because we have non-Christian listeners and readers, and how can we expect to share our faith with them if they can’t even understand the language we use? Second, because on last week’s episode of the podcast Rigel and I learned about a number of other mysterious words that are also misunderstood or entirely unknown even to many Christians. Our friend Ian Doll joined us to chat about the universal call to holiness that all Christians, irrespective their individual circumstances, are invited and indeed expected to respond to. Ian walked us through his journey of faith which led him to Opus Dei and a lifelong commitment to living a Christian life via the Catholic faith and a commitment to Christ’s Church.

On this week’s episode we discuss finance and faith, and we’re joined by another committed Catholic Christian (our friend Braden) to do so. Ian and Braden’s lives are vastly different but they’re united by a common commitment to faithfully serving Christ while working in the secular world. And they, like both Rigel and I, believe the way to do that is as Catholic Christians in the Catholic Church. Remember, as explained in a prior post, the word “catholic” is from the Greek katholikos which means “universal.” We serve in the Catholic Church because Christ only started a single church, and that church (as its name states) is universal. My wife and I were very happy to attend the Chrism Mass with our dear friends (the parents of nuestra pequeña profesora, ML) during Holy Week, where we celebrated the institution of the priesthood by Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago for his single universal church. And we were equally happy to chat with the man who, as one of the successors to the closest friends and followers of Jesus, oversaw the whole thing. Here we are with Bishop William McGrattan of the Diocese of Calgary…

Bishop McGrattan at the Chrism Mass

God bless! Happy Easter! Alleluia!


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