Are You Ready for Your Pilgrimage?
Although the Blessed Virgin was carried away fainting after the sad meeting with her Son loaded with His Cross, yet she soon recovered consciousness, for love, and the ardent desire of seeing Him once more, imparted to her a supernatural feeling of strength.
— Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
In the early years of Christianity and now for centuries, Christians have gone to the Holy Land to see the places important in the life of Christ. Pilgrims visit Nazareth, where the Holy Family lived. They visit Bethlehem and venerate the spot where Jesus was born. They visit places where Jesus taught, healed, and performed His miracles. And, of course, they visit Calvary, where Christ died. They venerate the anointing stone and the empty tomb of Jesus.
Our annual experience of Holy Week is a pilgrimage. We become witnesses of Christ’s Passion and participate in the Passion narrative. At the beginning of Holy Week, we are there as Christ enters Jerusalem to the waving of palm branches and the singing of “hosanna.” We will be there on Holy Thursday, as Christ institutes the Eucharist at the Last Supper and washes the feet of His disciples. At the conclusion of Holy Thursday, we will enter the garden, and pray with Jesus at the altar of repose. On Good Friday, we will visit Calvary, and stand with John and Mary as Christ dies on the Cross. On Easter Sunday, we will run with the disciples to the empty tomb and see what Mary Magdalene proclaimed: that Jesus’ body is not there.
Jesus was on a pilgrimage throughout His life. He came from Heaven to earth to die for us and to lift our human nature to the heavenly realm. The last days of His life were a pilgrimage to Calvary. His pilgrimage is our pilgrimage. Our pilgrimage is not only to the earthly Jerusalem but to the heavenly Jerusalem. As we follow Jesus this Holy Week and witness these events, we hope to follow Him, just as His Mother must have followed Him along each step.
Those who go on a pilgrimage prepare themselves. If it is a walking pilgrimage, for instance, they prepare through daily exercise. Pilgrims also have to pack their suitcases, and they might read a book to learn more about the places they will visit. Mary must have prepared herself for her pilgrimage to Jerusalem. How will you prepare for your Holy Week pilgrimage? Will you practice walking by praying the Stations? What will you pack in your spiritual suitcase? What will you read?
Dear Blessed Mother, help me to prepare for my pilgrimage of Holy Week as I walk by your side during Christ’s Passion.
Regardless of how your Lenten resolutions have gone, resolve for this week to take on a Lenten discipline.
Experiencing Holy Week with Our Lady
Our place of safety will be beneath the mantle of the holy Mother of God. By our silent witness in prayer, we give ourselves and others an accounting for the hope that is within.
— Pope Francis, Palm Sunday 2019
Our Palm Sunday Mass commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people greeting Him with “Hosanna in the highest.” We hear the Passion narrative and all that Jesus experienced on the way to Calvary: left alone in the garden while the apostles slept; betrayed by Judas; denied by Peter; abandoned by the other apostles, who scattered. During this Holy Week, let us imagine Mary as she journeyed with Jesus. Let us be her companion so that we may console and comfort her.
Let us pause today and consider how Mary must have felt as a witness to all of this. I can only imagine that Jesus brought His disciples, His closest friends, home with Him from time to time. The Gospels tell us that Mary went looking for Jesus one day to see where He was (Mark 3:31–35). St. Maximus the Confessor believed that Mary would have followed Jesus during His public ministry. Suffice it to say, Mary was close to the apostles. She is called the Queen of Apostles. She was a mother to them. Her motherly heart must have been broken — broken because she witnessed her Son in so much pain and because those who loved Him were not there in His final moments.
Mary remained faithful, despite witnessing all of these things. She watched Jesus in agony as she stood beneath the Cross. She later consoled the apostles who came to her, one by one, for her motherly counsel and love.
As we meditate on Mary’s sorrow for Jesus and the apostles this week, let us realize that she experiences sorrow because of us. This is why she has often come to the world, because we forget what Jesus did. It’s why she asked the children at Kibeho to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary, so that we might not forget her suffering. Let us enter into this Holy Week with Mary, asking her to obtain many graces for us as we contemplate her Son’s Passion, so we might not forget, so we will not break her heart.
Sorrowful Mother, I want to walk with you during this Holy Week. Allow me to experience it through your eyes and understand what you suffered. May I never take for granted all that Jesus did for me.
Imagine what you would say to Mary if you were one of the apostles. Then realize that you are saying that to her because of your sins. Then pray the Hail Holy Queen.