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Holy Week Passeggiata

March 25, 2010

Holy Week Passeggiata

During the happy years I spent in Rome, I grew fond of the Italian custom of a passeggiata—a casual stroll, always with a friend, usually after a good meal, in the evening when the sun began to set and the cool breezes arrived.

A passeggiata is a ritual. If someone asks you to go on a passeggiata, it is a compliment. It means he or she enjoys your company and wants to get to know you better. The conversation on this walk is usually substantive. You end it by having shared something significant with each other.

In a way, Holy Week is a passeggiata. Jesus invites us to take a walk with Him, to accompany Him on the way to His death and Resurrection. He wants us near, He wants us close, because He has important matters to confide in us. As He asked His apostles on the night before he died, "Will you keep me company?"

We begin on Palm Sunday, walking with Him on His entry into Jerusalem, waving palms and acclaiming Him our Lord, our Messiah, our Savior; the palms are blessed before Mass, and then we process with the branches into church for the solemn liturgy opening Holy Week.

Throughout the week, we might walk with Him again as we make the Stations of the Cross, actually tracing His painful journey on the Via Dolorosa, stopping 14 times to reflect on His Passion.

We'll take a passeggiata with him again on Holy Thursday, after the Mass of the Lord's Supper, as we process with the Holy Eucharist to the altar of repose. At that time we'll reverently recall His walk after the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane where He underwent His agony. Many of us will then "stay awake with Him" in adoration before the tabernacle.

On Good Friday we walk with Him again, on the Way of the Cross, and process at the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion up to the cross to venerate it with a kiss. Thousands upon thousands, millions around the world, will jam churches to journey up the aisle and kiss the wood of the cross.

On Holy Saturday, at the Easter Vigil, we process with the paschal candle from the new fire into the darkened church, proclaiming Christ as the light of the world. Then we take a passeggiata with those to be baptized back to the font as they "die" to their old self with Christ on the cross, and are reborn as children in the family of faith we call the Church.

Holy Week is a week of walking, accompanying, knowing.

Hopefully, when we are finished with this annual passeggiata, we're much better friends with Jesus, brimming over inside with His radiant new life of Easter.

"We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee because by Thy Holy Cross and Resurrection Thou hast redeemed the world."