What a beautiful Holy Week it has been! Palm Sunday in Krakow was unlike any I’ve seen in the US. We began with a gathering outside where the bishop blessed everyone’s palms, followed by a procession into the church to represent Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. The Mass at the shrine was beautiful as usual, especially at the end. There was a large group of people given large palms, taller than themselves, and they banged them on the floor to the beat of the closing song. It was so amazing to see a group of people so invested in celebrating the beginning of Holy Week and doing their best to live authentically Christian lives.
Everyone in Krakow was preparing for Easter this week. In the main market square, they set up a large Easter market that is running until this coming Easter Monday. They sold anything, from Polish pottery to Easter baskets and childrens’ toys. You could feel the anticipation of Easter in the air. Monday through Wednesday were normal class days, but I passed through the Easter market a few times to do some gift shopping between rounds of homework. My friends and I are doing “Secret Easter Bunny” gifts for each other, so I had a lot of fun exploring the market for those gifts.
We didn’t have class on Holy Thursday, and the Mass wasn’t until 6 pm, so we had a lot of free time. A few of my friends and I went to a mall close by to shop for an Easter dress… and I may have had a little too much fun and bought a few more articles beyond a new Easter dress. After shopping, I took a little nap before getting ready to go downtown to the Dominican basilica for Mass. I stopped at a coffee shop for an hour or so to get a little work done before heading to the church early to get good seats. The Dominican church was completely packed! Sitting down, I couldn’t even see the alter, but it was great to see so many people showing up for this beautiful Mass. There were so many priests that processed in, and the music sung by the choir was absolutely lovely. Beyond all this beauty though, I tried my best to remember what it meant to enter into the Triduum season. This was the night Christ instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood. It may have been a crowded church, making it difficult to see what was going on, but I didn’t need to see necessarily. I was participating in the Mass to commemorate this important night. Since the Triduum is one continuous liturgy without a final blessing until Easter Vigil, Holy Thursday ends with a Eucharistic procession, mirroring Christ going into the garden to pray and prepare for His Passion the next day. After the procession, my friends and I went out to dinner to celebrate this holy day. The Mass had gone late, so we didn’t get to dinner until 9 or so, and we didn’t leave until after 10:30, so a late dinner to say the least! Afterward, I went to pray in another church nearby with friends, since Jesus would be reposed in churches across the world tonight to symbolize His time in Gethsamane.
Good Friday was probably my favorite liturgy to witness in Krakow so far. I went here to the shrine again, and once again, there were many many priests and altar boys who processed in silence with Cardinal Dziwsz. The entire liturgy was very intentional. You could see how important it was for these people to fully enter into this time of commemorating the Lord’s death out of love for us. The entire Gospel was sung, with the different voice parts, since we were reading the Passion. The choir sang the crowd’s lines, and I was blown away by it all. After the homily was the veneration of the Cross, where you can go up to reverence the Cross by a genuflection, kiss, or some other sign of affection. There was one Cross for the whole church to venerate, making this part of the Mass well over an hour. Seeing how many people wanted to wait to have just a few seconds to reverence our Lord’s sacrifice was very moving. I began to get impatient after a while but was reminded of how long it must have been standing at the foot of the Cross, watching Christ die, and that helped me put this little discomfort of sitting and waiting into perspective.
The veneration was followed by the distribution of communion and another Eucharistic procession! I have never witnessed a Eucharistic procession after Good Friday. They placed Jesus into the monstrance, and then covered the monstrance with a veil. Cardinal Dziewz then processed with all the priests and altar boys into the crypt of the sanctuary where Jesus would stay for adoration until Easter Vigil the following night.
After about a three-hour liturgy, my friends and I went back to our floor to watch The Passion of the Christ to close the night. If you haven’t seen this movie, I can’t recommend it enough. It is an amazing reminder of how harsh the torments were that Christ endured, but without them, there would be no victory over death and sin.
I’m praying for you all as we close out this Holy Week and head into the Easter season. Remember that Easter is what gives meaning to the rest of our lives. The hope of Christ rising from the dead and defeating sin and death is the reason we can continue to live our lives in pursuit of Heaven. Please keep praying for me, and I’ll see you all next week to tell you about Easter! Czesc!