Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (April 13, 2006)

Published April 13, 2006

This time of year usually provides a lot of movies based on biblical themes—some more but usually less than scripturally accurate. The coordinators of the television network and cable schedules presume that most people are in the mood for some religious entertainment. And they are probably correct.

Religion enjoys a rush of enthusiasm at this time of year, as Christians mark the season of Easter and Jews celebrate Passover. The time is ripe for faith. But the mood is short-lived, as we will very soon return to the world of soap operas, reality shows and broadcast violence.

Still, the heart does seem to enjoy a few moments of intense religious fervor.

We Catholics conclude our Lenten journey with this week of ceremonies, which are not intended to be nostalgic but to allow us to relive the events of our salvation. Holy Week is a time when the events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection are ceremonially recalled and experienced again in 2006. Our celebrations are more than mere televised dramatizations of actions that took place almost 2,000 years ago; they are sacramental/ritual actions that allow us to enter into the Mystery of Christ’s Paschal Victory.

We use palms, oil, fire, wax, water, bread, and wine to ritualize Christ’s own triumph over sin and death. Liturgy is not make-believe, liturgy is not viewing an event that took place long ago, and liturgy is not a spectator event. Liturgy is the sacramental re-presentation of the salvific moment. Participating in the Church’s worship this week is not like turning on a television and watching activities from the safety of our den. Offering the Church’s liturgy of Holy Week is being allowed to sacramentally share through word and symbol in the work of our Salvation.

Perhaps this is why our churches are so often filled with folks who do not customarily come to church. They long to be a part of the great events of salvation, and they realize that merely watching them on television is not nearly as satisfying as living them with the community of believers through the Church’s worship.

Holy Week is transforming. It changes us, as we all understand more perfectly how truly magnificent is Christ’s love for us all.

Each parish calls together its faithful and retells the story of salvation, not as mere spectators, but as participants through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is my fondest wish, dear brothers and sisters, that this Holy Week ushers in an intense and lasting encounter with the Saving Christ for all of you—especially for those of you who will join us at the Lord’s Altar for the first time as our newest members of the Family of Faith.

The Church does not merely watch the events of salvation; we relive them through the grace of our Sacramental worship—which is so much more splendid and true than any televised story could ever hope to be.

To my brother priests and deacons who will share in a unique way in the Church’s Liturgy, I ask God’s choicest blessings as we together enter the heart of the Christian year. May all of you know deep and rich joy in your service to God’s people.

Happy Easter to all the members of the Church in North Georgia and to all of your loved ones and neighbors.