Holy Week (Catholic Church)

Holy Week (Catholic Church)

Holy Week in the Catholic liturgical calendar is the week from Palm Sunday (also called Passion Sunday) through Holy Saturday.

What occurs during Holy Week

Each of the days of Holy Week has its own traditions of services in the West. Believers are encouraged to follow in their prayers with readings from the Gospel the account of each of the actions from the time of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the crucifixion and death of Jesus on Good Friday and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. While each day has special mass celebrations in the Western churches, the week's most elaborate services are during Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, (Holy Saturday), and Easter). In the Reformation, emphasis was taken away from the Passion and Placed upon the resurrection of Jesus, but contemporary Protestant Churches, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, hold the three days between Good Friday and Easter to be the holiest days of the calendar.

Holy Week Liturgies in the Latin Rite

Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday)

*Beginning of the holy week.
*Dual Liturgy of the Word one beginning the Procession of Palms and the other recounting the Passion of the Lord.:*Procession of Palms is a comemoration of the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.:*Reading of the Passion – narrative of Jesus’ capture, sufferings and death.

Holy Triduum

Holy Thursday

While every celebration of the Eucharist is a commemoration of the paschal mystery, the Holy Thursday liturgy is a commemoration of the events of the Last Supper in particular. It is viewed as the celebration of the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood. Holy Thursday liturgy is distinctive for several elements including a re-enactment of Jesus' washing of the feet of the Apostles before the meal, as recounted in the Gospel of John and the Gospel account of the Last Supper, which includes Christ's taking bread and wine and, declaring them to be his body and blood, and giving them to the Apostles. At services on this day, a minister, priest, or lay leader(s) may wash the feet of some members of the congregation to commemorate Christ's actions and command. Following the celebration of the Eucharist, the sanctuary is stripped of all images, candles and the reserved Eucharist which is carried in the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose.

Good Friday

Roman Catholic Christians treat Good Friday as a fast day, which is defined as only having one full meal or two small ones.

The Catholic Good Friday in the Roman Rite afternoon service involves a series of readings and meditations, as well as the (sung) reading of the Passion account from the Gospel of John which is often read dramatically, with the priest, one or more readers, and the congregation all taking part. In the traditional Latin liturgy, the Passion is read by the priest facing the altar, with three deacons chanting in the sanctuary facing the people. Unlike Roman Catholic services on other days, the Good Friday service is not a Mass, and in fact, celebration of Catholic Mass on Good Friday is forbidden. Eucharist consecrated the night before (Holy Thursday) may be distributed. The cross is presented, with the people given an opportunity to venerate it. The services also include a long series of formal intercessions. The solemnity and somberness of the occasion has led to a phenomenon whereby in the course of history the liturgical provisions have a tendency to persist without substantial modification, even over the centuries . Some churches hold a three-hour mediation from midday, the Three Hours' Agony. In some countries, such as Malta, Italy and Spain, processions with statues representing the Passion of Christ are held.


The Holy Week commemorations reach their paramount on Good Friday as the Catholic Church celebrates the passion of Jesus. Solemn celebrations take place in all churches together with processions in different villages around Malta and Gozo. During the celebration, the narrative of the passion is read in some localities. The Cross follows a significant Way of Jesus. Good Friday processions take place in Birgu, Bormla,Ghaxaq, Luqa, Mosta, Naxxar, Paola, Qormi, Rabat, Senglea, Valletta, Żebbuġ and Żejtun. Processions in Gozo will be in Nadur, Victoria, Xaghra Xewkija, and Żebbuġ.

The Philippines

In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, the day is commemorated with street processions, the Way of the Cross, and a Passion play called the Sinakulo. The Church keeps the day solemn by not tolling the church bells, and no mass will be celebrated. In some communities (most famously in San Fernando, Pampanga), the processions include devotees who self-flagellate and sometimes even have themselves nailed to crosses as expressions of penance. After three o'clock in the afternoon of Good Friday (the time at which Jesus is traditionally believed to have died), noise is discouraged, some radio stations and television stations sign off (while others remain signed-on, broadcasting Religious Programming), businesses automatically close, and the faithful are urged to keep a solemn and prayerful disposition through to Easter Sunday.

Holy Saturday

*No Mass is celebrated. In cases of the danger of death, Eucharistic Hosts remaining from the Liturgies of the two previous days are used for Extreme Unction.
*The Tabernacle is left empty and open. The lamp or candle usually situated next to the Tabernacle denoting the Presence of Christ is not used, and the Eucharist is kept elsewhere, usually the sacristy.

Easter Vigil

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Easter Vigil consists of four parts:

# The Service of Light
# The Liturgy of the Word
# The Liturgy of Baptism: The sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for new members of the Church and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises by the entire congregation.
# Holy Eucharist

The Liturgy begins after sundown on Holy Saturday as the crowd gathers inside the unlit church. In the darkness (often in a side chapel of the church building or, preferably, outside the church), a new fire is kindled and blessed by the priest. This new fire symbolizes the light of salvation and hope that God brought into the world through Christ's Resurrection, dispelling the darkness of sin and death. From this fire is lit the Paschal candle, symbolizing the Light of Christ. This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, remaining in the sanctuary of the Church or near the lectern, and throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, reminding all that that Christ is "light and life."

All baptized Catholics present (i.e. those who have received the "Light of Christ") receive candles which are lit from the Paschal candle. As this symbolic "Light of Christ" spreads throughout those gathered, the darkness is decreased. A deacon, or the priest if there is no deacon, carries the Paschal Candle at the head of the entrance procession and, at three points, stops and chants the proclamation "Light of Christ" or "Christ our Light," to which the people respond "Thanks be to God." Once the procession concludes, the deacon or a cantor chants the Exultet (also called the "Easter Proclamation"), and, the church remaining lit only by the people's candles and the Paschal candle, the people take their seats for the Liturgy of the Word.

The Liturgy of the Word consists of between two and seven readings from the Old Testament. The account of the Exodus is given particular attention in the readings since it is considered to be the Old Testament antetype of Christian salvation. Each reading is followed by a psalm and a prayer relating what has been read in the Old Testament to the Mystery of Christ. After these readings conclude, a fanfare may sound on the organ and additional musical instruments and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is sung. During this outburst of musical jubilation the congregation's candles are extinguished, the church lights are turned on, and bells rung while the church's decorative furnishings — altar frontals, the reredos, lectern hangings, processional banners, statues and paintings — which had been stripped or covered during Holy Week, are ceremonially replaced and unveiled and flowers are placed on altars and elsewhere. (In the pre-Vatican II rite, the statues, which have been covered during Passion Time, are unveiled at this time.) Members of the congregation may have been encouraged to bring flowers which are also brought forward and placed about the sanctuary and side altars. A reading from the Epistle to the Romans is proclaimed. The Alleluia is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent (or, in the pre-Vatican II rite, since Septuagesima). The Gospel of the Resurrection then follows, along with a homily.

After the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, the water of the baptismal font is consecrated and any catechumens or candidates for full communion are initated into the church, by baptism and/or confirmation, respectively. After the celebration of these sacraments of initiation, the congregation renews their baptismal vows and receive the sprinkling of baptismal water. The general intercessions follow.

After the Liturgy of Baptism, the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues as usual. This is the first Mass of Easter Day. During the Eucharist, the newly baptised receive Holy Communion for the first time. According to the rubrics of the Missal, the Eucharist should finish before dawn.

Easter Sunday

*The Feast of the Resurrection.
*The Church’s greatest feast

Eastern Catholic Churches

In Eastern Catholicism as in Eastern Orthodoxy, during Holy Week, Orthros (Matins) services for each day are held on the preceding evening. Thus, the Matins service of Monday is sung on Palm Sunday evening, and so on. (The services of Sunday through Tuesday evenings are often called Bridegroom Matins, because of their theme of Christ-as-Bridegroom.)

In many churches, especially those of the Byzantine Rite, a service of Anointing (Holy Unction) is held on Wednesday evening.

The Divine Liturgy of the Last Supper is held on the morning of Holy Thursday. Matins of Holy Friday, with its Twelve Gospel Readings, is held on the evening of Holy Thursday; Vespers of Holy Friday (Vespers of the Unnailing) is held in the morning or afternoon of Holy Friday. The figure of Christ is taken down from the Cross, and a richly-embroidered cloth icon called the "epitaphios", depicting Jesus prepared for burial, is laid in a "tomb" decorated with flowers. Matins of Holy Saturday is held on the evening of Holy Friday; the clergy and people gather around the tomb and chant a set of hymns called "The Lamentations", during which the tomb is censed and sprinkled with rose petals and rose water. Near the end of the service, it is carried in a candlelit procession around the outside of the church.

Divine Liturgy is held Saturday morning. This is the "Proti Anastasi" (First Resurrection) service, and the vestments and church hangings are changed from dark to light.

Saturday night at midnight, the Paschal Vigil begins in darkness. A single candle is lighted by the priest, from a light on the altar which is never extinguished. The light spreads from person to person until everyone holds a lighted candle. Everyone goes in procession around the outside of the church, symbolizing the journey of the Myrrhbearers to the tomb of Christ on that first Easter morning. Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy follow. A joyful breakfast usually follows, sometimes lasting till dawn. Slavs bring Easter baskets filled with Easter eggs, meat, butter, and cheese—foods from which the faithful have abstained during Great Lent—to be blessed.

Agape Vespers, during which the Gospel is read in as many different languages as possible, is usually held on Easter Day. It is often combined with an Easter egg hunt and other activities for children, but there is no regular Sunday morning Liturgy, since it was already at the midnight service.

Holy Week throughout the world


In this largely Roman Catholic nation, Holy Week, known as Semana Santa, is treated as one of the most important religious festivals of the entire year. At Mass on Palm Sunday, Catholics carry "palaspas" or palm leaves to be blessed by the priest. Many Filipinos bring home the palm leaves after the Mass and place these above their front doors or their windows, believing that doing so can ward off evil spirits. Holy Monday marks the beginning of the Pabasa (literally, reading) or Pasyon, the marathon chanting of the story of Jesus' life, passion, and death, which continues day and night, for as long as two straight days. A popular Holy Thursday tradition is the "Bisita Iglesia" (Church Visit), which involves visiting several Churches at which the faithful would pray the Stations of the Cross. The last Mass before Easter is also celebrated on Holy Thursday, usually including a reenactment of the Washing of the Feet of the Apostles; this Mass is followed by the procession of the Blessed Sacrament before it is taken to the Altar of Repose. Good Friday in the Philippines is commemorated with street processions, the Way of the Cross, the commemoration of Jesus' Seven last words (Siete Palabras) and a Passion play called the Sinakulo. In some communities (most famously in the province of Pampanga), the processions include devotees who self-flagellate and sometimes even have themselves nailed to crosses as expressions of penance. After three o'clock in the afternoon of Good Friday (the time at which Jesus is traditionally believed to have died), noise is discouraged, bathing is proscribed and the faithful are urged to keep a solemn and prayerful disposition through Black Saturday. Easter morning is marked with joyous celebration, the first being the dawn Salubong, wherein large statues of Jesus and Mary are brought in procession together to meet, imagining the first reunion of Jesus and his mother Mary after Jesus' Resurrection. This is followed by the joyous Easter Mass.

eville, Spain

Seville arguably holds the most elaborate processions for Holy Week anywhere in the world. A tradition that dates from medieval times which has spread to other cities in Andalusia, the "Semana Santa en Sevilla" is notable for featuring the procession of "pasos", lifelike wood or plaster sculptures of individual scenes of the events that happened between Jesus' arrest and his burial, or images of the Virgin Mary showing grief for the torture and killing of her son. These pasos are physically carried in the shoulders of "costaleros" (literally "sack men", usually bodybuilder types who are used to carrying extreme weights), and can weight up to five metric tonnes. The pasos are set up and maintained by "hermandades" and "cofradías", religious brotherhoods that are common to a specific area of the city, whose precede the paso dressed in Roman military costumes or penitential robes. Those members who wish to do so wear these penitential robes with conical hats, or "capirotes", used to conceal the face of the wearer (these robes intentionally served as the basis for the traditional uniform for members of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States). These "Nazarenos" carry processional candles, may walk the city streets barefoot, and may carry shackles and chains in their feet as penance. A brass band may accompany the group, playing funereal religious hymns or "marchas" written for the occasion.

Other countries around the world

Cities famous for their Holy Week processions include:


**Antigua Guatemala
**Guatemala City



**Bantayan Island
**San Pablo City

***Málaga, declared of international touristic interest
***Seville, declared of international touristic interest [http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semana_Santa_en_Sevilla]
**Castile and Leon
***León, declared of international touristic interest [http://www.turismocastillayleon.com/cm/turcyl/tkContent?pgseed=1142412675459&idContent=1815&locale=es_ES&textOnly=false]
***Valladolid, declared of international touristic interest
***Zamora, declared of international touristic interest
**Castile-La Mancha
***Toledo [http://www.toledoaldia.com/nuevoproyecto/SemanaSantaToledo.htm]
***Tobarra, declared of national touristic interest [http://www.semanasantatobarra.com]
***Hellin, declared of national touristic interest
***Murcia, declared of national touristic interest [http://www.semana-santa.de/start_e.htm]

ee also

*Easter (or Pascha)
*liturgical year
*Catholic Holy Week procession.

External links

* [http://www.cresourcei.org/cyholyweek.html The Days of Holy Week] at The Christian Resource Institute

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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