Holy Week is a solemn week focusing on the final days of Jesus Christ’s life, beginning on Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. The day commemorates Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In the Gospel, Jesus was greeted by crowds of people who spread their cloaks and laid palm leaves in his path and proclaimed him the Son of David (Matthew 21:5). We celebrate Palm Sunday at Mass by distributing blessed palms and a procession holding the palms.
Eventually, these palms are returned to the Church where they are burned. Traditionally, their ashes are saved and distributed at next year’s Ash Wednesday services.
The next major event in Holy Week is Holy Thursday. On this day, we take part in the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, known as the Lord’s Supper or the Last Supper. The celebration of the Eucharist comes from this night. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal took bread and broke it, saying to his disciples “Take; this is my body, broken for you”. After they ate, he did the same with wine saying, “This cup is my blood. Each time you drink this cup, remember me”. The broken pieces of bread reminds us of Jesus’ body which was broken when He was crucified. The wine reminds us of Jesus’ blood that He shed for us on the cross. Through transubstantiation at the altar, we believe this to be the true presence of Christ with us today.
During Jesus’ last night with his disciples, he also washed the feet of his 12 disciples as an example of love and humility. We do this today to imitate Jesus.
The next day is Good Friday, and on this day, we commemorate the trial, punishment, and crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus.
In the Gospel, Jesus was brought before Annas, a powerful Jewish cleric who condemned Jesus for blasphemy. From there, Jesus was presented to Pilate for trial. Pilate found no guilt in Jesus, but agreed to have him crucified to please the crowd of people and prevent a riot. Christ was then stripped, flogged, and crowned with thorns. He was then forced to carry His Cross to the place of His execution, and was nailed to the Cross between two thieves who were likewise crucified. Late that afternoon, seeking to ensure Christ’s death, a Roman guard stabbed him in his side with a spear.
When Jesus died, an earthquake is said to have occurred as well as a great darkness which covered the land. It was only then that many people knew that Jesus was the Son of God.
Holy Saturday, also known as Easter Eve or Great Saturday, commemorates the day that Jesus Christ lay in the tomb after his death. This day is the last day of Holy Week and Lent. Jesus’ followers and mother held a vigil for him outside of Jesus’ tomb, awaiting his foretold resurrection. In our churches, the Tabernacle is left empty, to show that Christ is departed. Our parishes waited with them today.
Between the sun setting on Holy Saturday and the sun rising on Easter Sunday, our churches held an Easter vigil.
An Easter fire is kindled and a Paschal candle is blessed and then lit.
Easter Sunday celebrates the completion of Holy Week, the beginning of the season of Easter, and the resurrection of Jesus. We discover on this day that Jesus’ Tomb is empty, and our Lord has resurrected, triumphing over death once and for all time. Happy Easter, Christ is risen!