During Holy Week, Catholics have the unique opportunity to deeply and powerfully experience Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The Church’s Holy Week Liturgies invite the faithful to remember the extraordinary, world-altering events of over 2000 years ago, which remain at the core of our faith and continue to give life to the Church. As we approach Holy Week, especially the Triduum, I wanted to share a few thoughts on how we can each embrace the outpouring of grace and blessing available in the days ahead.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Palm Sunday begins an incredible week in the Church by commemorating the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before His crucifixion. Jesus begins the week entering into Jerusalem with palms waving and people proclaiming, “Hosanna, King of the Jews,” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” A few days later, the same crowd who shouted Hosanna and blessed Him would call for Jesus to be crucified. Remarkably, these same people will mock, spit, and conspire to destroy Him, but God had another plan. 

These people calling for his crucifixion, the ones who wanted to get rid of him, did not want to change their habits; they did not want to hear a new message or consider a new way of life. They wanted him to be gone, to never hear from him again. They wanted things to go back to the way they always were; they wanted to live their lives the way they always did. God had a more glorious plan. A plan of salvation that turns their evil plans upside down.

Sunday’s Mass will include the reading of the Lord’s Passion; in this Year B cycle, the reading of the Gospel will be taken from the Gospel of Mark (14:1-15:47). During our Good Friday services, the Passion will again be read, this time using John’s Gospel (18:1—19:42). There is a great blessing in reading multiple accounts of these momentous events in our Church’s history. Each Gospel writer brings a distinctive focus, allowing the reader or listener a more comprehensive perspective.

Holy oils: the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumens, and the holy chrism oil

Chrism Mass

The annual Chrism Mass will take place on Tuesday, March 26, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River at 4 p.m. Priests ministering in the Diocese—diocesan and religious—will celebrate with me this traditional Holy Week liturgy that includes the blessing of holy oils and the renewal of priestly promises.

The Chrism Mass is celebrated every year during Holy Week in cathedrals in dioceses worldwide. It is a special liturgy that manifests the unity of the bishop with the priests of his diocese and the Church community as members of the Body of Christ. “The holy oils are at the center of the Church’s [Chrism Mass] liturgy,” said Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, and the three different oils to be used in the sacramental life of the Diocese of Fall River throughout the year will be blessed in the context of the Mass. Oil is an ancient symbol of strengthening, healing, and preparation.

The Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens consist of olive oil and are presented and blessed during the Mass. The Oil of the Sick is used for the anointing of all who are ill and in need of God’s healing; the Oil of the Catechumens is used for the anointing of infants, children, and adults who are preparing for baptism. The third oil is Sacred Chrism, the most eminent of the three and from which the Mass takes its name. It is olive oil mixed with balsam, and I will consecrate it during the Mass. Sacred Chrism is used in baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, and the dedication and blessing of churches and altars. After the Mass, the oils will be distributed to all parishes in the Diocese to further the Church’s mission in the year ahead.

Holy Thursday-Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy Thursday

The Holy Thursday Mass celebrates the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and includes an often-moving reenactment of Jesus’ washing of the Apostles’ feet. The first of the Holy Triduum Liturgies serves as a powerful reminder of the Lord’s magnificent plans to remain with the people of faith after His glorious resurrection. Jesus is truly present — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. Through priestly vocations, the Church experiences Jesus’ mercy and love through the sacraments, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation. 

During the reading of the evening’s Gospel, the Church is reminded of how we are to continue Jesus’ work by serving and caring for others: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:15 ).

Holy Thursday’s Mass ends with a procession of the reserved Eucharist to an Altar of Reposition where the faithful may watch prayerfully until midnight. I invite you to consider remaining in quiet adoration with the Lord, remembering His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, even if just for a few moments. 

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

Good Friday

Jesus’ Redemptive suffering brought much good to our world. Let us join in our suffering to Christ’s saving work on the cross. Let us use this experience to grow in faith and hope. Let us not miss this opportunity to allow this suffering to make us better people. If we can become better people — the world will become better, too.

For anyone unable to attend the recitation of the Stations of the Cross at a parish, there is a beautiful Stations available on the USCCB website:  https://www.usccb.org/prayers/scriptural-stations-cross

Good Friday is the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena, which, although it can be prayed any time, Jesus specifically asked for it to be prayed for the nine days preceding the Feast of Mercy. You can find the daily intentions and prayers here: https://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena

My prayer for each of you, as we draw closer to our Lord’s Passion, Death, and, thanks be to God—Glorious Resurrection, is that you and your family use this time to open your hearts to the movement of the Lord in your life. I pray that you each experience the peace, hope, and salvation Jesus came, suffered, and died to bestow upon us all.

Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha

O Reverendíssimo Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., D.D.
O Reverendíssimo Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., D.D.
The Bishop of Fall River