ROME, 26 MARCH 2010 (ZENIT)
Given the proximity of Holy Week,
Father Nicola Bux, professor of Eastern Liturgy and Consultor of
several Holy See dicasteries, proposes a substantial liturgical
meditation on the key moments and symbols of the celebrations
proper to Palm Sunday and the Holy Triduum.
Father Bux's reflections are a valid aid
offered both to priests as well as the rest of the faithful
to bring us closer to the divine mysteries that will be
celebrated in the forthcoming days, with a spirit of
contemplative faith and prayer of adoration, and not of mere
We take advantage of the occasion to wish our readers a Holy
Easter that will bear fruits of interior joy and conversion
(Father Mauro Gagliardi).
* * *
The Letter to the Hebrews is the only text of the New
Testament that attributes to our Lord Jesus Christ the titles
"priest," "high priest" and "mediator of the New Covenant,"
thanks to the offering of the sacrifice of his body, anticipated
in the mystical Supper of Holy Thursday, consummated on the
Cross and presented to the Father with the Resurrection and
Ascension to Heaven (cf. Hebrews 9:11-15). This text is
meditated in the Liturgy of the Hours of the fifth week of Lent
or Passion week, as in the liturgical calendar of the
extraordinary form of the Roman Rite
and in Holy Week.
We Catholic priests must always look at Jesus Christ and have
his same sentiments, to the point of absorption in Him; this
ascesis occurs with permanent conversion. How does conversion
take place in us priests? In the rite of Ordination we are asked
to teach the Catholic faith, not our ideas, "to celebrate with
devotion and fidelity the mysteries of Christ
namely, the liturgy and the sacraments
according to the tradition of the Church" and not according to
our taste; above all, "to be ever more united to Christ high
priest, who as pure victim offered himself to the Father for
us," that is, to conform our life to the mystery of the cross.
The Holy Church honors the priest and the priest must honor the
Church with the holiness of his life
proposed St. Alphonsus Mary of Liguori on the day of his
with zeal, with work and with decorum. He offers Jesus Christ to
the Eternal Father, that is why he must be clothed in the
virtues of Jesus Christ to prepare himself to encounter the Holy
of Holies. How important is the interior and exterior
preparation to the sacred Liturgy, to the Holy Mass! It is about
glorifying the high and eternal priest Jesus Christ.
However, all this is carried out to the greatest degree in Holy
Week, the Great and Holy Week as the Eastern Church says. Let us
look at some of its principal ceremonies on the basis of the
Pontifical of bishops.
1. On Palm Sunday, the priest enters Jerusalem with Jesus in
joy. On this Sunday the Church celebrates the Lord's triumph and
anticipates the joy of the victory of the Risen One. The solemn
procession in honor of Christ the King is the most
characteristic rite of the day: It recalls the triumphal cortege
that accompanied Jesus on his entry in Jerusalem, expresses the
actual meeting of the Church in the holy mysteries and
represents, ahead of time, the entrance of the elect in the
heavenly city, as the Apostle says: "Provided we suffer with him
in order that we may also be glorified with him" (Romans 8:17).
The liturgy of the Palms orients us, therefore, to the
definitive Presence of the Lord, in Greek "parousia." It is not
just about commemorating the Lord's entry in the heavenly
Jerusalem but, bringing us close to the Eucharistic banquet,
where the Bread will be broken, about proclaiming symbolically
what will really happen at the end of the world. Then the Lord's
Cross will open the entrance of the heavenly Jerusalem to that
"great multitude" that St. John contemplated in the prophetic
vision, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and
clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and
crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who
sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:9-10).
2. With the Missa in Cena Domini of Holy Thursday, the priest
enters the principal mysteries, the institution of the Most
Blessed Eucharist and of the ministerial priesthood, as also of
the commandment of brotherly love, signified by the washing of
the feet, gesture that the Coptic liturgy does ordinarily every
Sunday. Nothing expresses it better than the song "Ubi Caritas."
After communion, the priest, taking the humeral cloth, goes up
to the altar, genuflects and, helped by a deacon, takes the pyx
with his hands covered by the humeral cloth. It is the symbol of
the need for pure hands and hearts to approach the Divine
Mysteries and touch the Lord!
3. Good Friday in Passione Domini, the priest is called to go up
to Calvary. At 3 p.m., the Passion of the Lord takes place in
three moments: the Word, the Cross, Communion. It moves in
procession and silence to the altar. After reverencing the
altar, which represents Christ in the austere nakedness of
Calvary, he prostrates himself on the ground: It is the "proskynesis,"
as in the day of ordination. Thus he expresses the conviction of
being nothing before the Divine Majesty, and repentance for
having dared to measure himself, through sin, with the
Omnipotent. As the Son who abased himself, the priest recognizes
his nothingness, and so begins his priestly mediation between
God and the people, which culminates in the solemn universal
The exposition and adoration of the Holy Cross takes place: The
priest goes to the altar with the deacons and there, standing,
receives it and uncovers it in three successive moments, or
shows it already uncovered, and invites each of the faithful to
adoration with the words: Look at the wood of the Cross. In its
bare solemnity, here, in the heart of the liturgical year,
tradition has endured tenaciously more than at other moments of
the year. The priest, after depositing the chasuble, if possible
barefoot, is the first to approach the cross, kneels before it
and kisses it. Catholic theology does not hesitate to give to
the word "adoration" its true meaning. The true Cross
bathed with the blood of the Redeemer
makes itself, so to speak, one with Christ, and receives
adoration. Because of this, prostrating ourselves before the
sacred wood, we say to the Lord: "We adore you, O Christ, and we
bless you, because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the
4. The Easter of the Kingdom of God has been realized in Jesus:
the Supper offered and consumed, "on the night he was betrayed";
immolated on Calvary on Good Friday, when "the earth was covered
in darkness," once again at night receives the consecration of
divine approval, in the resurrection of Christ the Lord: From
John we know that Mary Magdalene went to the sepulcher "while it
was still dark"; hence, it happened in the last hours of the
night after the Paschal Saturday.
In the Novus Ordo, the priest, from the beginning of the Vigil,
wears white vestments as for the Mass. He blesses the fire and
lights the Paschal Candle with the new fire, if he proceeds,
after having nailed, as in the old liturgy, a cross. Then he
traces on the vertical side of the cross the Greek letter alpha
and below, instead, the letter omega; between the arms of the
cross he traces four numbers to indicate the current year,
saying: Christ yesterday and today. Afterward, having made the
incision on the cross and the other signs, he can nail in the
candle five grains of incense, saying: Through his holy wounds.
Then, singing the Lumen Christi, he leads the procession to the
church. The priest is at the head of the faithful people here on
earth, to be able to lead them to heaven.
It is the priest who intones solemnly the Alleluia. He sings it
three times, gradually raising the tone of his voice: the people
repeat it each time in the same tone.
In the baptismal liturgy, the priest, standing before the font,
blesses the water singing the prayer: Oh God, through the
sacramental signs; while he invokes: Descend, Father, on this
water. He can submerge the Paschal Candle in the water once or
three times. The meaning is profound: the priest is the
fertilizing organ of the ecclesial womb, symbolized by the
baptismal pool. Truly in the person of Christ Head he engenders
children that, as father, he fortifies with the chrism and
nourishes with the Eucharist. Also by reason of the marital
functions to the Church Bride, the priest must be a man. All the
mystical meaning of Easter is manifested in the priestly
identity, coming to fullness, the pleroma, as the East says.
With him sacramental initiation reaches its culmination and
Christian life the center.
Hence, the priest, having ascended the cross with Jesus on
Friday and lowered into his sepulcher on Holy Saturday, can
really affirm on Easter Sunday with the sequence: "We know that
Christ has truly risen from the dead."
[Translation by ZENIT]