It’s the holiest week in the liturgical calendar – quintessential displaying of the mysteries of Christianity. You are in awe. During the Holy Week, you will find yourself in the Church more times than other days of the year – even praying with an intense desire for worship. But questions abound as the story unfolds.
What is Holy Week?
Holy Week is an intense worship celebration leading to the Paschal Mystery – Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. It begins on Palm Sunday and continues until Easter Sunday. The Holy Week culminates in Jesus’ resurrection, triumph over sin, and death. Holy Week does not include Easter Sunday.
Historical Origin of Holy Week Celebration
The observances of Holy Week most likely began in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church. The term ‘Holy Week’ appears for the first time in the writings of fourth-century bishops: Athanasius (Bishop of Alexandria) and Epiphanius (Bishop of Constantia). Egeria, a Gallic woman who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in about 381-384, had the first recording of the Holy Week observance in Jerusalem like the triumphant entry into Jerusalem with palms.
Is it a Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday?
Both are correct. It’s called Palm Sunday because the priest will bless the palms. After the blessing, the priest and the people carry the blessed palms in a procession to commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Another highlight is a long passion reading – the longest Sunday Gospel of the year. Therefore, it’s called the Passion Sunday as the Passion Narrative is proclaimed. The dual celebration of Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday has a different mood. Palm Sunday tone is more of jubilation. In contrast, Passion Sunday is a somber lamentation of the Suffering Servant – who obediently accepts death on the Cross.
What happens on Holy Monday?
The Monday reading of the Holy Week invites you to reflect on the two important events in the life of Jesus leading to Calvary: Jesus cleanses the Temple (Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19 & Luke 19:45-48), and Jesus curses a fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22, Mark 11:12-14).
What is Trap Tuesday?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not known as Trap Tuesday. You will notice authorities trying to trick Jesus into blaspheming. You can see how the events turn against Jesus as the religious leaders’ question Jesus’ authority (Matthew 21:23-27, Mark 11:27-33 & Luke 20:1-8). But still, Jesus continues to teach the crowd in stories: the parable of the great feast (Matthew 22:1-14), the parable of the evil farmers (Matthew 21:33-46 & Mark 12:1-12), the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-32).
The religious leaders try to trick Jesus into blaspheming: Should you pay taxes to Caesar? (Matthew 21:28-32, Mark 12:13-17 & Luke 20:20-26), Will we be married when we are resurrected? (Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12-18-27 & Luke 20:27-40), Which is the greatest Commandment? (Matthew 22:34-40 & Mark 12:28-34), Isn’t the Messiah supposed to be David’s Son? (Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37 & Luke 20:41-44)
What is Spy Wednesday?
The Wednesday of Holy Week is infrequently called Spy Wednesday. Although not very popular, the name of the day is associated with Judas becoming a spy for the Sanhedrim. The key events to reflect on a Spy Wednesday: Religious leaders plot to kill Jesus (Matthew 26:1-5, Mark 14:1-2 & Luke 22:1-2), Woman anoints Jesus with oil (Matthew 26:6-13 & Mark 14:3-9), and Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11 & Luke 22:3-6)
Why is Easter Triduum the most solemn moment?
The most solemn moment in the Church is the Easter Triduum. It is the three days beginning with Holy Thursday evening Mass of the Lord’s supper, a celebration of the Lord’s Passion of Good Friday and culmination with the Easter vigil and Easter Sunday. The beginning of Easter Triduum, that’s Holy Thursday, officially ends the forty days of Lent. But with the Easter Triduum, the intensity increases for next the three-days of self-denial leading to Good Friday, Holy Saturday to celebrate Easter.
During the Easter Triduum, your faith takes top priority to the celebration of the sacred mysteries. Funeral masses are forbidden on Holy Thursdays and the entire Easter Triduum. The bishop, along with the priest, may have another day for the Chrism Mass to bless the three oils for sick, catechumens, and confirmation or consecration.
Why is it called Maundy Thursday?
The term “maundy” is from the Latin word mandatum, meaning commandment. It recalls the new Commandment given by Jesus during the last supper – “love one another as I have loved you” (John13:34). Three important things are celebrated on Maundy Thursday: the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the commandant of service. The entire liturgy is set up in the backdrop of the Jewish feast of Passover. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Jesus invites every follow to serve the other joyfully, even if it’s the most menial task within a cultural setup.
You may want to read about these Maundy Thursday events from the Bible. Jesus and his disciples share the Passover meal (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26 & Luke 22:7-30). Jesus goes to an olive grove to pray (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 & Luke 22:39-46). Jesus is arrested (Matthew 26:47-68, Mark 14:43-65 & Luke 22:47-53). Peter denies knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72 & Luke 22:54-62).
Did you know about Good Friday?
You will have the question: Why is it called Good Friday? There are myriad explanations. But the terns’ historical origins are unclear, as etymologists believe that the term ‘good’ is a form of ‘holy.’
Good Friday is a celebration of the Lord’s Passion. The three major part includes the proclamation of the Passion, the veneration of the Cross, and the reception of the Holy Communion. You will also join in the General Intercession with ten petitions for important concerns of the Church and the world. When you attend the service, the leader may invite you to kneel before each of these intercessions and stand for the prayer. There is no Eucharist, but only the communion service for the congregation.
If you cannot attend the service, it may be helpful to consider reading from the Bible events in the life of Jesus on the Good Friday: Jesus is put on Trial (Matthew 27:1-31, Mark 15:1-20, Luke 23:1-23 & John 18:28-40) and Jesus is crucified and buried (Matthew 27:31-60, Mark 15:21-39, Luke 23:24-48 & John 19:1-34).
What is special about Holy Saturday?
Holy Saturday is about waiting in anticipation at Jesus’ tomb in prayer and fasting. The Church calls you to mediate on Jesus’ Passion and death – the descent into hell and await the resurrection. There is no celebration of the eucharist, as the altar is left bare without the altar cloth until the solemn vigil if resurrection. The joy that overflows after Jesus’ resurrection will last for fifty days, culminating in Pentecost – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. You may look at the reading about the guards securing the tomb (Matthew 27:62-64 & Luke 23:55-56).
Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday
The Easter vigil begins after nightfall and ends before daybreak. The vigil starts with the blessing of new fire and the Easter Candle. Even you will carry a small candle in procession inside the Church. It is recommended to attend the vigil service as it is regarded as the greatest and the noblest of all solemnities – the resurrection of Jesus.
Yes, it’s the longest night, also called mother of all vigils. The deacon (priest or lay cantor) sings of the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet). The liturgy of the word will have nine readings, seven from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. The priest will lead the congregation in singing Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest) and after the epistle reading the alleluia. You will recall that during the Lenten period, Gloria and Alleluia are avoided except on solemnities during lent.
Another special feature of the vigil service is catechumens are baptized into the faith. When candidates are baptized, you will join in the Litany of Saints invoke the intersession. The priest will then bless the holy water or the baptismal water, invite people to profess their faith, and sprinkle the congregation with the newly blessed holy water. It’s the proper night to received baptism – born anew in Christ.
You may want to read more about the resurrection events: Jesus is resurrected and appears to women at the tomb (Matthew 28:1-16, Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-12 & John 20:1-18), Jesus appears to the disciples on the road (Mark 16:12-13 & Luke 24:13-35), Jesus meets with the disciples and issues of the great commission (Mark 16:14-20, Mathew 28:16-20, Luke 24:36-35 & John 20:19-29).
Something for you …
Need funny and thought-provoking stories about priests, buy on amazon The Uncommon Priest: Incredible Stories You Never Read
Check out my spiritual videos on YouTube: Feroz Fernandes
ferozfernandes.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.