I love Holy Week. I really do. I have always loved it, even as a small child.
I love the reading of The Passion at Mass on Palm Sunday. (Secretly, I think it's because it calls for the whole congregation's participation and that pleases the actor in me!)
I love the "prep work" of getting the house clean and shiny, and dying Easter eggs during the first half of the week.
I love Mass on Holy Thursday, celebrating the Last Supper and re-creating the Washing of the Feet. Hearing the Lord's Passion from a different gospel writer's perspective. After Mass, I really love visiting other parishes and seeing how they handle Adoration; I tell my own children it's like visiting Jesus when he was jailed after Judas' betrayal.
Good Friday is a highly emotionally-charged day for me because it focuses so intently on Christ's Passion and Death on the Cross. I find the Stations of the Cross are a wonderful way to "walk with Jesus" through his last few, painful days. But, I find the Liturgy Service with The Veneration of the Cross to be a very meaningful experience for me, personally. I love that a true-to-life sized Cross is carried into the church by the priest, who stops at various intervals to sing, "Behold, the wood of The Cross, on which hung the Savior of the World.". I love that we pray for specific groups and things (i.e. People Who Do Not Believe in Christ and World Peace), in great detail and reverence. My two favorite things are receiving Communion and walking up to the front of the church to place a kiss on the huge cross.
I love the Easter Basket Blessing that happens in the church on Holy Saturday, where the priest has a specific blessing for candy, wine, meat, bread, eggs, and flowers for the Easter Baskets that people bring filled with these traditional items. And, I am sure the priests love that people come to the rectory to drop off a sampling of these delicious goodies after the blessing!
Easter is particularly sublime, as it is the Catholic Church's biggest feast day. The church (which has also had a Spring Cleaning!) is shining with light and decorated with heavenly-smelling Easter Lilies and other spring flowers. The music is joyful, to the point of effusiveness. And, all the people look so beautiful in their new Easter clothes (especially, the children!).
For a moment, let me back up a bit and talk about this year's Good Friday. This particular year, Good Friday also happens to be our daughter's 4th Heavenly Birthday. What do I mean? Four years ago, on April 2 (her due date), our beautiful baby girl was born into our family, into the Church, and into Heaven. She is a saint. It is her feast day. Our Lord's death on the cross definitely trumps that feast day. While we cannot have a Mass said in her honor on that day (no masses are to be celebrated after the Mass on Holy Thursday until Mass is said on the Easter Vigil on Saturday night), we will still be in church and receive Communion at the Liturgy Service. (We also will have a Mass said in her honor later next week.)
However, being that Good Friday is a very emotional day for me normally, this year will probably be even more difficult for me. Our Lady's sorrow and grief at her Son's Passion and at the foot of His Cross has been very real to me ever since our daughter passed away. Not that the two events can be even remotely equated, but the feelings are very similar.
I believe that was also in God's plan. I believe that in His Blessed Mother, He gave us a holy example of how we (especially mothers) are to handle our own personal grief and sorrows. While, Our Lady's heart "was pierced" by the awful treatment and horrific death of her Son, she knew that He was God, and it was necessary for Him to suffer and die in order to save the whole world. She cried and suffered, but with dignity and without questioning God's Plan for all of us. She knew that God's Plan trumped any personal sorrow she would suffer, and that, even greater than this, she could unite her own suffering to her Son's. She showed us that she could make her suffering "count" by offering it to God as a sacrifice for sinners. (For those of you who have not already seen it, I highly recommend watching The Passion of the Christ (Full Screen Edition) this week; it shows Mary's "human-ness" coupled with her saintliness in a way that is very easy to relate to in modern day.)
I, too, will cry and re-live my sorrow this Good Friday. I am sure that the Liturgy Service with the Veneration of the Cross will be very difficult for me. The Church's Service is designed to affect us in a profound way, and this year it will ring even truer for me. But, I will also use the example of Our Blessed Mother, and not let my suffering be in vain. I will unite my pain to Our Dear Lord's pain, and offer it up for sinners. For, if Our Lady could offer up her pain and suffering at her Son's Death realizing her pain was just a small part of God's Bigger Plan, than I can certainly do the same regarding my own child's death.
And, in the midst of your own Good Friday offerings, reflections, and prayers this April 2nd, if you could manage a quick, "St. Fiona, Pray for Us!", my family and I would be very appreciative.
"St. Fiona, Pray for Us!"