by Rev. Fr. Rommel Molina Arcilla
The Holy Week celebration this year is so different from all the celebrations we had in the past years. Churches are closed due to the lock down status in our country because of this Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, celebrations were done on private by priests with some ministers only and people can only watch inside their homes via live streaming or through some TV networks airing the Holy Week celebrations in some churches in the mainland.
I was so tempted to do it the usual way with the big congregation because I know how the people long to attend those celebrations especially that we are being challenged with this illness. I know they long to pray and pray even harder as this illness seems to spread so fast and it has killed thousands already from around the globe. I know we are all afraid that this might catch up with our loved ones and we may even be victim, too, of this dreaded disease. My heart tells me to allow them to come and attend the celebrations physically, but my mind cannot allow them to attend and be in trouble with the law and with the authorities. If I am the only one who will go into prison for letting them come, I may have a change of mind because I realized their need to pray not just to get nearer to Christ on the Cross, but to pray for protection and for a cure for those who were already suffering the disease, and also for those who have died.
Those liturgical celebrations which I presided without the usual multitude of peoples were different indeed. I missed the usual lively celebration with all the singing and the lining up of people waiting for their turn to kiss the cross and to receive the Body of Christ. On one aspect, celebrations were boring but on the other hand, it was never boring because it was our way of remembering the ultimate sacrifice that our Lord has done for us on the cross. He gave us Life on that first Holy Week, and we were saved because of His Blood shed on the cross.
Last Holy Thursday, I celebrated the liturgy of the Last Supper and had the Body of Christ brought near to the people on the sidewalk on their knees making the sign of the cross while the Body of Christ was passing by them. I saw their faces and their eagerness to really walk in procession as what they have always done in the past. They were really like a lost wanderer needing a guide who will give them comfort and assurance that they are still on the right track and everything is just fine. It was a very solemn experience though I felt so sorry for them that I cannot give them what they really wanted during this time of need for prayer.
I was so glad to have done that going around the barangays with the Body of Christ in a monstrance in a pickup truck. They saw the Lord visiting them and being present to them. I saw their faces with all the expressions that they need Christ in their lives especially during these critical moments in our human history. I saw their love for Jesus who loved them first and continues to love them no matter what. Procession, as we know it, is a gathering of a group of individuals walking solemnly to a certain destination which is usually the church. It was only me and the driver who went around the area and that is no procession at all. But, still, I am so thankful that I did it even when a part of me was telling me not to proceed with the activity. Maybe it was God’s way of showing me that I must do my part and do it devotedly as many people are counting on me and my ministry as their shepherd.
The celebration of the Holy Week this year is different from the past, but it will always be essentially the same. We were saved by the Paschal Mystery of Christ and that is the grace that we always receive no matter how we celebrate the Holy Week. God’s grace can never be locked down by anybody, not even by the most powerful person on this earth. Our churches maybe closed but God’s grace will continue to flow from His loving arms outstretched upon the cross. His love and forgiveness will always be at work for those who are seeking for His grace through their desire. Be assured that our God is a loving God who is always there for us in any circumstances of our lives. Let us continue to trust Him and have faith in Him for His love for us is more than enough to see us through these trying times.