Most Rev. John Akin Oyejola
THE spiritual and liturgical activities of the Lenten season and Holy week are put in place by the church to prepare all the faithful for the glory of Easter. The significance of these sacred activities is that they celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
These sacred events in themselves are symbolic and concrete celebrations of the redemption that Christ brought into the world. Good Christians recall through them the processes that Christ went through before he reconciled mankind to God.
The four cardinal requirements of lent namely: Penance, fasting/abstinence, prayer and almsgiving, if followed faithfully will lead one on the path of righteousness.
Many Christians that are faithful to the apostolic tradition of forty days of lent, both the good and not so good ones make spirited efforts during lent to make a difference in their lifestyles for good.
Many momentarily become saints during lent, but after lent they return back to their normal selves.
The annual forty days of lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the Holy Week celebrations and Easter.
They are interconnected, the days of Holy Week are particularly important because of the spiritual activities involved, which were performed by Christ himself as a memorial of his mission and passion on earth.
The Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy week, on this day, Christians commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey, his last journey on earth.
Prior to the time, Christ prophesied that, the son of man is going to Jerusalem to be rejected by the elders, to suffer and be killed cf. (Matthew 16:2; Luke 9:22).
People welcomed him into Jerusalem with enthusiasms waiving palm leaves and spreading their clothes on the ground for the donkey he rode to march on. The palm leaves they held signified royalty, peace and solidarity.
Every year when Christians commemorate the event, the faithful show their solidarity and loyalty to Christ, the saviour of the world. The church offers the world, the peace of Christ, which no one else can offer or take away.
The last three days of the Holy week known as the triduum are very important in the celebration.
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On Holy Thursday, according to the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church, we celebrate the Mass of Chrism by the bishop and all the priests as a sign of communion of the priests with the Bishop and the entire people of God in a diocese.
Oils of Catechumen, the Sick and Chrism are also blessed during the mass for the administration of the relevant sacraments throughout the year.
In the evening of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s passion is celebrated, during which we remember the institution of the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist which the Lord instructed must be celebrated in memory of him till the end of time John 13: 1 ff, Matthew 26: 26.
On Good Friday, we celebrate in vivid way the physical suffering of Christ, his crucifixion and death on the cross.
As part of the sacred devotion, we do veneration of the cross. The Lord instructed we must be in love with the cross, if we are to be his disciples cf. Matthew 16:24, and as noted by St. Paul we preach Christ crucified, the cross is the power and wisdom of God cf. 1. Cor. 1: 23.
Saturday night, the Church holds mother of all vigils to wait patiently and with hope the resurrection of Christ. The vigil features comprehensive proclamation of the word of God, lighting of Easter Candle-signifying risen Christ who is the light of the world who came to dispel the darkness of sin and Satan.
In the morning, we always celebrate the joy of Easter, a reminder to us that death is not the end of man but eternal life awaits all faithful people at the resurrection.
We are not expected to be saints only during Lent, Holy Week and after Easter, we return to normal aggressive, wicked, deceitful, lying, manipulating, cold, indifferent and sinful people.
We Christians are called to imitate Jesus in our daily lives. This Holy season must not be just another season, like all others, which come and roll by.
This season for each and every one of us must be another opportunity offered by God, to evoke in us purification and conversion.
We are reminded at Easter that all the valid and urgent preoccupations of our lives in time must be subordinated to and evaluated in terms of life and eternity.
We are reminded that the life of the body is short and fleeting, and that the real man lives beyond the grave. Finally, we are called upon to rise with Christ in joy, peace, love and glory.
May the grace and blessings of this season be richly yours and family. I wish you all a happy and fruitful Easter, be assured of my prayers and that of all the clergy of Catholic Diocese of Osogbo.
- Most Rev. John Akin Oyejola, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Osogbo.