According to tradition, towards the end of her life the Blessed Virgin moved from Jerusalem to Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). No longer able to retrace the steps of her Son’s passion where they actually occurred, she set up an identical Stations of the Cross on her property using stones and markings. This became the very first Stations of the Cross. This is described in detail by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich according to her visions.
The Feast of the Ascension, also called Ascension Thursday, follows 40 days after Easter Sunday and is a Holy Day of Obligation. The Feast of the Ascension is probably treated in many places today as one of the ho-hum feast days, but historically it was a major feast (thus, its status as a holy day of obligation). In order to think of it and treat it with the same reverence as Christians of days past, it helps to reflect on it more deeply.
Easter is a glorious time to be Catholic. There is nothing more wonderful than to participate in than the various liturgies of the Easter Triduum, the holiest time of year. This is the solemn three-day period, from the night of Holy Thursday to the Easter Vigil, when the Church accompanies her Savior in His Passion, death, and resurrection.
Painting Easter eggs is a beloved ancient tradition for Eastern Catholic churches as well as Orthodox. The eggs are often dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. The Easter eggs are then carried to the church in baskets to be blessed by the priest at the end of the Easter vigil before being distributed to the faithful. Historically, Christians would abstain from eating eggs during a strict Lent, so Easter was the first chance to eat eggs again after a long period of abstinence. The egg represented the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represented Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
On Holy Saturday our sorrow and emptiness begin to be replaced with a growing joy and anticipation. The night is especially dedicated to the Candidates and Catechumens who will become full members of the Church.
Since the altar was stripped bare and the Eucharist removed from the Tabernacle on Holy Thursday, in the past good Friday was sometimes called “Long Friday.” The church seems empty and we again feel a sense of waiting.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the “source and summit” of our Catholic Faith – The Holy Eucharist.
On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:26-28).
Sundown on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Sunday is considered the most solemn part of Holy Week. This three-day period is referred to as the Easter Triduum, also known as the Sacred Triduum, or Paschal Triduum. Basically, the Sacred Triduum is one great festival recounting the last three days of Jesus’ life on earth, the events of his Passion and Resurrection. “Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery” (USCCB).
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, when Jesus made his final entrance into Jerusalem, and culminates with Easter Sunday. As Holy Week progresses to its final days the solemnity heightens.
As we reach the middle of Holy Week, our waiting turns to anticipation. Spending a little time in prayer each day has helped us to identify some of our weakness and times we need to turn quickly to Christ for help. On the Wednesday of Holy Week we also remember the betrayal of Judas on the day before the Last Supper, and reflect on how we ourselves have betrayed Our Lord with our sins.
Today we continue our waiting and preparation as we approach Good Friday. Just as you did yesterday reserve some time to “Be still and know that (He) is God” (Psalm 46:10).
If possible, make a Holy Hour today and visit with Our Lord in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. During His agony in the garden on Holy Thursday Jesus asks His disciples to pray with Him. If you don’t have a lot of time, or if you find an hour is too long to stay focused, try going for 15-20 minutes. You will be amazed to find that even this brief break in your day can refresh your soul!