Imagine you’re in a movie theater watching the latest blockbuster, thoroughly captivated by the plots and subplots, the beautiful faces and lush scenery as the movie progresses inexorably toward its climax. Your cell phone alerts you to an incoming call. (Of course, you silenced the ringer before the movie began.) Much as you hate the interruption, it’s an important call and you have to take it. After a long time in the lobby, you return to your seat only to catch the last few minutes of the film. You see how the story ends, but you’ve missed so much of it that the ending doesn’t quite make sense. You cannot understand it as fully as those who watched the story from start to finish. Not only that, but you didn’t get your full ticket’s worth.
Adoration of the Lamb of God, from the Ghent Altarpiece (early 15th century)
Something like that scenario will happen this week in the lives of many Catholics. The holiest week of the year began on Sunday, popularly called Palm Sunday because we bless and process with palms in commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Holy Week is a grace-filled time enriched by beautiful liturgies that commemorate the last days and hours of Jesus’ earthly life. Yet many Catholics, including those who would never dream of missing Sunday Mass, do not attend the Holy Week services. That’s a pity. Just as we cannot fully appreciate the outcome of a movie if we’ve missed the key events leading to it, so we cannot really appreciate Easter’s light if we shun the darkness of this week.