Experiencing Holy Week: Retreat, Reflect, Remember

“He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself. Lose yourself on the Cross, and you will find yourself entirely.”

St. Catherine of Siena

This quote sums up what the experience of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum means to me.  Each year, I come to retreat, reflect, and remember. When I fully enter into this experience, I get swept up in God’s love, leaving it all to Him, losing myself on the Cross, and finding myself entirely in the Resurrection.

Retreat – For me, a retreat is an opportunity to disconnect from our worldly lives, free ourselves from distractions, and enter into intentional prayer. During this time, I pray for myself, the ones I love, the whole world, and even my enemies. I spend time in silence listening to God speaking to me. I find stillness letting God’s love consume me.

Holy Week and the Easter Triduum offer ample opportunities to enter into a fruitful retreat. For the past several years, I’ve volunteered for the music ministry at St. John’s. I play the flute and sing in the choir. Being part of the music has conditioned me to treat the Triduum as one continuous service, a 3-day retreat, beginning on Holy Thursday with the Last Supper commemoration followed by the withdrawal into the Garden of Gethsemane, a rendition arranged in the gathering space. 

We leave from here in silence and return the next day journeying with the Cross through the streets of downtown Rochester as we contemplate the road to Golgotha. When we enter into the church sanctuary on Good Friday, we come solemnly and ready to lose ourselves on the Cross as we ponder Christ’s Passion. 

jesus, christ, god, Holy Week, Good Friday

Reflect – Holy Saturday, also known as the Easter Vigil, is our invitation to keep the vigil outside Christ’s tomb as we await His glorious Resurrection. At St. John’s, the Easter Vigil Mass is an amazing celebration. I’ve always loved the music, and much of the Mass is sung. 

The Mass begins in darkness in the gathering space. As the Easter Candle is blessed and lit, representing the Light of Christ, we light candles one-by-one that each person holds as we process into the church. The flame symbolizes Christ’s victory. As the trumpets and organ play a triumphant fanfare, I can’t help but imagine we are exalted to heaven in this moment.

Additionally, the Easter Vigil Mass poses an awareness that all of this Triduum stuff isn’t just something that happened once upon a time in history. Seeds are constantly being planted and sown across every nation. We come together in solidarity as a universal church to reflect and thank God for His goodness to us. We let go of ourselves to become part of the One Body.

Liturgy of Light, Easter Vigil, Holy Week
Easter Vigil 2018

Remember – The Easter Triduum reminds me who I am, a beloved daughter of the King, who died for me, and rose on the third day, so that I might have eternal life. We are all beloved children of God, and we’re reminded of who we are at every Mass. 

Particularly this reminder chimes audibly in the Easter Vigil Mass as we renew our Baptismal promises and witness RCIA candidates make their profession of faith for their first time. I love how everyone applauses as we welcome our new members into the community. I imagine all the angels and saints exuberantly cheering for them, as surely must happen every time we poor sinners repent and return to God with all our hearts.

The party continues on Easter Sunday as we gather again for Holy Mass. It is yet another occasion to assemble as a family and celebrate the victory won for us – He is risen!

As a single woman, I’m tempted to feel lonely from time to time. Surely, the isolation and social distancing resulting from the pandemic these past two years have been trying times for many humans. We must remember that we’re never alone. My comfort and hope comes from the realization that God is with me, and I belong to His Catholic Church. Every time I engage in Mass and the Sacraments or in activities at my parish, I remember that God loves me. Living in this truth is where I find myself entirely.

During this Holy Week, I pray that you will open your hearts to retreat, reflect, and remember, so that you may also experience all the beauty and grace God desires to give you throughout the Triduum. May God bless you, and may you remember always that you are the beloved sons and daughters of Christ the King.

Melissa Schmid