9th April 2020
I was supposed to pass this reflection to Shirley Maurice, the staff in charge of our parish website and e-bulletin last Monday. However, I have not been feeling well (actually since the MCO started) – I have had severe coughing, sore throat, ulcer, fever, headache, etc. Last Saturday was my third time in a row to see the doctor. I had finished two courses of antibiotics and two bottles of 120ml PCE Syrup but I was and is still coughing (now slightly better to be honest). The doctor told me that I have a very weak immune system. So, I have been literally down and doing nothing but sleeping most of the time. Thank God, the result for COVID19 test was negative but still I need to do “self-quarantine” at least for the next few days.
Last Sunday, we celebrated Palm Sunday to mark the beginning of Holy Week. It is called “Palm Sunday” because on that particular Sunday the parishioners will bring palm leaves to be blessed as well as use the palm leaves as part of the liturgical celebration to commemorate the Lord’s entrance to Jerusalem. The palms are supposed to be kept in the house as a continuous reminder of what is being exclaimed in the Palm Sunday liturgy – that we recognized Jesus as our Saviour and welcomed Him in our lives. This year’s celebration, however, was an exception. As instructed by the Bishops Conference of Malaysia, there was no blessing of palm, no liturgical procession and no Gospel narration. Needless to say, it was all because of the COVID19 pandemic which we are currently facing.
Awkward as it seemed, it did not deprive us from celebrating the Palm Sunday meaningfully. I am sure you read my message to encourage every household to put up palm leaves on the front door. It would be a sign of solidarity in Christ in facing the challenging situation now. Amazingly, even before I circulated the instruction, Christians all over the world had already been passing the same message I was thinking about! Truly the work of the Holy Spirit! In the liturgy of Palm Sunday, the humility and powerlessness of the Messiah become visible in the fact that after the celebration of the Lord’s entrance to the City of Jerusalem, the Passion is proclaimed. The Passion of the Lord has a powerful message to the world – that, we do not have to be in a powerful position in order to change and transform the world, it suffices to just demonstrate our humble disposition and service. The humble palm leaves just symbolically did that!
The celebration of Palm Sunday indeed is the beginning of the Holy Week, where we Christians are supposed to contemplate more intensively on the passion of Christ without losing our sight on His triumph on the cross. We are supposed to see that the passion and death in the life of Jesus were only the dark tunnels he had to pass through in order to get to the glory of resurrection. What is valid in the life of Jesus is valid also for us, his followers. In the midst of the global crisis of COVID19 now, we should never lose hope. We may have to suffer now for a short while, but redemption and victory are at hand.
Tonight, Thursday (9 April 2020) we will begin the Easter Triduum. It will continue tomorrow (10 April 2020) with Good Friday and culminate with the Easter vigil celebration (11 April 2020). It should be clear to us that that Easter is not just a ONE-DAY celebration but a THREEDAY celebration. In fact, the Latin word Triduum actually means “Three Days”. Notice also that the English word “Easter” is equivalent to the word Pesach in Hebrew. That is where our Kadazan word PASKA comes from to mean EASTER. Pesach simply means “Passover”. The Jews in the OLD TESTEMENT celebrated Pesach to commemorate their liberation from Egypt where they were enslaved for 400 years. It is so called Pesach because it is a celebration of a “passing over” of the people of Israel from Egypt across the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-15:1) and the desert of the Sinai Peninsula to the Promise Land. It is a passing over from slavery to freedom.
The Christian celebration of Easter is also a celebration of liberation but more so than that of the Jewish’s. It is a liberation from the slavery of SIN to the freedom of GOD’S GRACE. Hence, when we commemorate the “passing over” of Jesus from his passion to this death (Holy Thursday to Good Friday), and to his resurrection (Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday), we actually commemorate our own passing over from SINFULNESS OF DEATH to the FULLNES OF LIFE IN CHRIST. That’s why Easter is the most important event in the Church. Without the paschal mystery of Easter, Christianity means nothing!
These three-day liturgical celebration of Easter will be broadcasted live as announced in the Parish Website and Parish e-bulletin. I just would like to remind all of you that just as in the Palm Sunday celebration, there will be some alteration in these paschal liturgies. Again, it is in compliance to the instruction of the Bishops Conference of Malaysia. In particular, there will be no washing of feet on Holy Thursday and the disposition of the Blessed Sacrament. On Good Friday, the Cross will be venerated virtually by the general parishioners. As for the celebration of Easter Vigil, the lighting of fire and preparation of candle will be omitted. We will also definitely miss the rite of Baptism. Nevertheless, I would like to assure our candidates for baptism, that the soonest possible after the MCO is over, we will find time to conduct a “special baptism” outside of the Easter Vigil celebration. Regarding this, I was informed by Dr. Freddy Robinson, the Chairman for Parish Catechetical Committee, that there are supposed to be 95 of them altogether to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation during Easter Vigil this year. It is going to be a little later for them, but remember “in His time”? In His time, they will receive the sacraments. In the meantime, I urge all of you to continue praying for these elects so that they will persevere in faith.
Wishing all of you a Blessed Easter Triduum!
Fr. Wilfred Atin