Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Seminal Holy Week

In some way, liturgically, each week we celebrate Holy Week anew.

The most obvious way this principle is seen is in the liturgical celebration of Sunday, the Lord's Day, the Day of the Resurrection.  Disregarding feasts, Sunday liturgies (in the widest sense: I am not solely referring to Eucharistic Liturgies) are more festive than the liturgies throughout the rest of the week.  "Every Sunday is a little Easter," I have heard it put frequently.  This is why, during Lent, Roman Catholics popularly partake of whatever food or activity they fast from (or "give up") throughout most of the Forty Days.  Every Sunday we celebrate Pascha.

The second most obvious case of this principle is in the liturgical celebration of Friday, the Day of the Cross.  Friday is the most somber day of the week, liturgically: on Friday, we are all called to fast.  Each Friday recalls Good Friday, the day Our Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross for us.  It is the day of penance.

The third case is on Wednesday.  Traditionally (and as still practiced by many), Wednesday was a day of fasting similar to Friday: in the Byzantine Rite, it is also liturgically a Day of the Cross.  More exactly, though, it recalls Holy Wednesday, often called Spy Wednesday in the West, the day when Judas betrayed our Lord.  We fast in remembrance of that great sin.  Wednesday is the Day of Betrayal, reminding us of the betrayal we make in each sin we commit.

The fourth case is on Saturday, the Day of the Dead, or the Day of Hidden Work, as I described in a recent post.  Saturday recalls Great and Holy Saturday, the Sabbath when our Lord entered Sheol/Hades to save the righteous dead.

What of the other three days of the week?  What of Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday?  Alas, I do not know what aspects of the liturgy on these days specifically reflect the days of Holy Week.  Monday is somewhat a day of fasting: during the two lesser (in intensity) fasts of the Byzantine tradition, Monday has a fasting intensity equal to Wednesday and Friday, while the other four days have lesser fasts.  Yet what occurred on Holy Monday to make it a day predisposed to fasting?  I do not know.  And why does there seem to be nothing liturgically to recall the Institution of the Eucharist on Great and Holy Thursday?  Again, I do not know.

What is clear is this: Sunday is the Day of the Resurrection, Wednesday is the Day of Betrayal, Friday is the Day of the Cross, and Saturday is the Day of the Dead.  These four days, liturgically, recall their corresponding days in Holy Week.  Why the other three days do not, I am not certain.

Is this something to be adjusted?  Should all the days of the week, liturgically, be made to match their Holy days?  How could this even be done?  I do not know.  Is this focus on time distracting: should each liturgical celebration be so immersed in the eschatological that there is no recognition of time at all?  Should the idea of "sanctification of time" be done away with altogether?  Again, I do not know.  I do not know enough to attempt to change the liturgy: what I merely want to do is to point out this interesting liturgical point on the recurrence of Holy Week each week and offer it as a possible aspect to be added to one's prayer life to make it more liturgical.

Nota Bene: My meanings of "liturgy" and "liturgical celebration" in this post are much wider than just the proper prayers of the Eucharistic Liturgies: they also encompass the wider public prayer of the Church (such as the Divine Office/the Hours) and, in fact, the entire public prayer life of the Church (including fasting regulations).  I hope to say that it is at least somewhat reflective of the use of the term in Fr. Jean Corbon's The Wellspring of Worship, but most likely I am far from accurate in my usage, and for that I apologize.

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