Over the course of the past week we have travelled with our blessed Lord to the gates of the city of Jerusalem; we have supped with him in the cenacle as he kept the Passover with his apostles; we have stood with his Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross as he was brutally put to death. Now we come with raw emotion and profound joy to this celebration of new life—of perfected life—in which, through the resurrection of Christ, we are invited to share. Christ has harrowed hell! He has conquered sin! He has put death to death! As we have sung in that great victory hymn, the Easter Sequence: “Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, now lives to reign.”
No person alive will ever celebrate again Good Friday as we do today. It will be over 140 years until, once more, the Church commemorates the Passion of the Lord on this date, 25 March. And whilst this may not, in and of itself, appear to be of particular interest or importance, we might recognise its significance when we recall that it is on this date that we usually celebrate the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord to Our Blessed Lady: that is, the day of the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to Our Lady, and Christ’s conception in her womb. Exactly nine months before the feast of the Lord’s nativity, this feast serves not only as a signpost that directs our gaze toward the coming of Christ as man, but also to recall the inalienable dignity of every human life, from conception until natural death: a sign that God in Christ has infused our human nature with his very self.
The commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady on the Friday in Passion week provides for us the opportunity to prepare to enter through the threshold of the Church’s most solemn time in the company of she who is the Mother of Christ and, by his command, our mother also. In the example of Our Blessed Lady we are presented with a model of the Christian life in every aspect and virtue, but in a particular way we are shown how we must be configured to bear the weight of the Cross of Our Lord and Saviour, so that we might also enjoy the fruits of his sacrifice in the bliss of the beatific vision. That is to say, in the person of Our Lady we see how we should journey through the coming days of Holy Week, and in particular the Sacred Triduum, so that the Paschal celebrations might be for us more than an outward observation of the Church’s external life, but an internal and interiorly transforming experience of God’s grace: his divine mercy poured out for us in the blood of the Son of the eternal Father who has become the Priest, the Altar, and the Lamb of Sacrifice.