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The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week.


Holy Week (Latin: Hebdomada Sancta or Maior Hebdomada, "Greater Week" or Greek: Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα) in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter. It includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and Good Friday, and lasts from Palm Sunday (or in the Eastern, Lazarus Saturday) until but not including Easter Sunday, as Easter Sunday is the first day of the new season of The Great Fifty Days. It commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

History

Holy Week in the Christian year is the week immediately before Easter. The earliest allusion to the custom of marking this week as a whole with special observances is to be found in the Apostolical Constitutions (v. 18, 19), dating from the latter half of the 3rd century and 4th century. In this text, abstinence from flesh is commanded for all the days, while for the Friday and Sunday an absolute fast is commanded. Dionysius Alexandrinus in his canonical epistle (AD 260), refers to the ninety-one fasting days implying that the observance of them had already become an established usage in his time.

There is some doubt about the genuineness of an ordinance attributed to >, in which abstinence from public business was enforced for the seven days immediately preceding Easter Sunday, and also for the seven which followed it; the Codex Theodosianus, however, is explicit in ordering that all actions at law should cease, and the doors of all courts of law be closed during those fifteen days (1. ii. tit. viii.). Of the particular days of the "great week" the earliest to emerge into special prominence was naturally Good Friday. Next came the Sabbatum Magnum ("Great Sabbath", i.e., Holy Saturday or Easter Eve) with its vigil, which in the early church was associated with an expectation that the second advent would occur on an Easter Sunday.

There are other texts that refer to the traditions of the Early Church, most notably The Pilgrimage of Etheria (also known as The Pilgrimage of Egeria) which details the complete observance of Holy Week in the early church.

Holy Week in Eastern Christianity

Eastern Orthodoxy

In Eastern Orthodox Churches, Holy Week is referred to as "Great and Holy Week". Orthros (Matins) services for each day are held on the preceding evening. Thus, the Matins service of Great Monday is sung on Palm Sunday evening, and so on. This permits more of the faithful to attend, and shows that during Holy Week the times are out of joint—Matins ends up being served in the evening, and in some places Vespers is served in the morning.

Fasting during Great and Holy Week is very strict. Dairy products and meat products are strictly forbidden. On most days, no alcoholic beverages are permitted and no oil is used in the cooking. Friday and Saturday are observed as strict fast days, meaning that nothing should be eaten on those days. However, fasting is always adjusted to the needs of the individual, and those who are very young, ill or elderly are not expected to fast as strictly. Those who are able to, may receive the blessing of their spiritual father to observe an even stricter fast, whereby they eat only two meals that week: one on Wednesday night and one after Divine Liturgy on Thursday.

The services of Sunday through Tuesday evenings are often called "Bridegroom Prayer", because of their theme of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, a theme expressed in the troparion that is solemnly chanted during them. On these days, an icon of the "Bridegroom" is placed on an analogion in the center of the temple, portraying Jesus wearing the purple robe of mockery and crowned with a crown of thorns (see Instruments of the Passion).

Towards the end of the Tuesday evening Bridegroom service, the Hymn of Kassiani is sung. The hymn, (written in the 9th century by Kassiani the Nun) tells of the woman who washed Christ's feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. ( ) Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gathers into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself from in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."


The Byzantine musical composition expresses the poetry so strongly that it leaves many people in a state of prayerful tears. The Hymn can last upwards of 25 minutes and is liturgically and musically a highpoint of the entire year. In many places in Greece, the Bridegroom Matins service of Great Tuesday is popular with sex workers and those engaged in prostitution, who may not often be seen in church at other times of the year. They come in great numbers, in order to hear the Hymn of Kassiani, as the hymn is traditionally associated with the woman fallen in many sins.

On Great and Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated, at which the faithful may receive Holy Communion from the reserved Holy Mysteries. This service combines Vespers with a Communion Service. Each of these services has a reading from the Gospel which sets forth the theme for the day.

In many churches, especially Greek Orthodox, a service of Anointing (Holy Unction) is held on Wednesday evening.



Divine Liturgy of the Last Supper is held on the morning of Great and Holy Thursday. Matins of Great and 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 icon on the cloth called the epitaphios representing Christ laid in a "Tombmarker" decorated with flowers. Matins of Great and Holy Saturday is held on the evening of Holy Friday; the tomb is sprinkled with rose petals and rose water, and then carried in a candlelit procession, while a set of hymns called "The Lamentations" is being sung.

Vespers joined to the Divine Liturgy is served on Great and Holy Saturday morning. This is the Proti Anastasi (First Resurrection) service, with Just before the reading of the Gospel, the hangings and vestments and changed from dark lenten colors to white.

On Saturday night, the service begins in darkness with the chanting of the Midnight Office. Afterwards, all remain in silence and darkness until the stroke of midnight. Then, the priest lights a single candle from the eternal flame on the altar (which is never extinguished). The light is spread from person to person until everyone holds a lighted candle. Then a procession takes place circling around the outside of the church, recreating the journey of the Myrrh Bearers as they journeyed to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning. The procession stops in front of the closed doors of the church. The opening of these doors symbolized the "rolling away of the stone" from the tomb by the angel, and all enter the church joyfully singing the Troparion of Pascha. Paschal Orthros begins with an Ektenia (litany) and the chanting of the Paschal Canon. One of the highpoints is the sharing of the paschal kiss and the reading of the Hieratikon (Catechetical Homily of John Chrysostom) by the priest. The Divine Liturgy follows, and every Orthodox Christian is encouraged to confess and receive Holy Communion on this holiest day of the year. A breakfast usually follows, sometimes lasting till dawn. Slavs bring Easter baskets filled with eggs, meat, butter, and cheese—foods from which the faithful have abstained during Great Lent -- to be blessed by the priest which are then taken back home to be shared by family and friends with joy.

On the afternoon of Easter Day, a joyful service called "Agape Vespers" is celebrated During this service the Great Prokeimenon is chanted and a lesson from the Gospel ( ) is read in as many different languages as possible, accompanied by the joyful ringing of bells.

Oriental Orthodoxy

Eastern Catholic Churches

Holy Week in Latin Rite Catholicism

Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday)

Holy Week begins with Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. Before 1955 this Sunday was known in the Roman Rite simply as Palm Sunday and the preceding Sunday as Passion Sunday. From 1955 to 1970 it was called Second Sunday in Passiontide or Palm Sunday.

To commemorate the entrance of the messiah into Jerusalemmarker, to accomplish his paschal mystery, it is customary to have before Mass a blessing of palm leaves (or other branches, for example olive branches). The blessing ceremony, preferably held outside the church includes the reading of a Gospel account of how Jesus rode into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, reminiscent of a Davidic victory procession, and how people placed palms on the ground in front of him. This is followed by a procession or solemn entrance into the church, with the participants holding the blessed branches in their hands.

The Mass itself includes a reading of the Passion, the narrative of Jesus' capture, sufferings and death, as recounted in one of the Synoptic Gospels.

Before the reform of the rite by Pope Pius XII, the blessing of the palms occurred inside the church within a service that followed the general outline of a Mass, with Collect, Epistle and Gospel, as far as the Sanctus. The palms were then blessed with five prayers, and a procession went out of the church and on its return included a ceremony for the reopening of the doors, which had meantime been shut. After this the normal Mass was celebrated.

Monday to Wednesday

The days between Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday are known as Holy Monday (or Fig Monday), Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday (sometimes called Spy Wednesday). The Gospels of these days recount events not all of which occurred on the corresponding days between Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and his Last Supper. For instance, the Monday Gospel tells of the Anointing at Bethanymarker ( ), which occurred before the Palm Sunday event described in .

The Chrism Mass, whose texts the Roman Missal now gives under Holy Thursday, may be brought forward to one of these days, to facilitate participation by as many as possible of the clergy of the diocese together with the bishop. This Mass was not included in editions of the Roman Missal before the time of Pope Pius XII. In this Mass the bishop blesses separate oils for the sick (used in Anointing of the Sick), for catechumens (used in Baptism) and chrism (used in Baptism, but especially in Confirmation and Holy Orders, as well as in rites such as the blessing of an altar and a church).

Tenebrae

When the principal services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil were celebrated in the morning, the office of Matins and Lauds of each day was celebrated on the evening of the preceding day in the service known as Tenebrae.

Holy Thursday

On this day the private celebration of Mass is forbidden. Thus, apart from the Chrism Mass for the blessing of the Holy Oils that the diocesan bishop may celebrate on the morning of Holy Thursday, but also on some other day close to Easter, the only Mass on this day is the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, which inaugurates the period of three days, known as the Easter Triduum, that includes Good Friday (seen as beginning with the service of the preceding evening), Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday up to evening prayer on that day.

The Mass of the Lord's Supper commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with his Twelve Apostles, "the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the commandment of brotherly love that Jesus gave after washing the feet of his disciples."

All the bells of the church, including altar bells, may be rung during the Gloria in Excelsis Deo of the Mass. The bells and the organ then fall silent until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil. In some countries, children are sometimes told: "The bells have flown to Rome."

The Roman Missal recommends that, if considered pastorally appropriate, the priest should, immediately after the homily, celebrate the rite of washing the feet of an unspecified number of men, customarily twelve, recalling the number of the Apostles.

A sufficient number of hosts are consecrated for use also in the Good Friday service, and at the conclusion of the Mass the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to a place of reposition away from the main body of the church, which, if it involves an altar, is often called an "altar of repose".

The altar of the church is later stripped quite bare and, to the extent possible, crosses are removed from the church or veiled.

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 Maltamarker, Italymarker and Spainmarker, processions with statues representing the Passion of Christ are held.

  • The Church mourns for Christ’s death, reveres the Cross, and marvels at his life for his obedience until death.
  • The only sacraments celebrated are Penance and Anointing of the Sick. While there is no celebration of the Eucharist, Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful only in the Service of the Passion of the Lord, but can be taken at any hour to the sick who are unable to attend this service.
  • The altar remains completely bare, without texts, candlesticks, or altar cloths.
  • It is customary to empty the holy water fonts in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil.
  • The Stations of the Cross are often prayed either in the church or outside.
  • The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord takes place in the afternoon, ideally at three o'clock, but for pastoral reasons a later hour may be chosen.
  • Since 1970, the colour of the vestments is red. Previously it was black. If a bishop celebrates, he wears a plain mitre.
  • 'The liturgy consists of three parts in the Roma Rite: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.
Liturgy of the Word
:Prostration of the celebrant before the altar.
:The readings from Isaiah 53 (about the Suffering Servant) and the Epistle to the Hebrews are read.
:The Passion narrative of the Gospel of John is sung or read, often divided between more than one singer or reader.
:General Intercessions: The congregation pray for the Church, the Pope, the Jews, non-Christians, unbelievers and others.
Veneration of the Cross: A crucifix is solemnly unveiled before the congregation. The people venerate it on their knees. During this part, the "Reproaches" are often sung.
Communion service: Hosts consecrated at the Mass of the previous day are distributed to the people.
  • Even if music is used in the Liturgy, it is not used to open and close the Liturgy, nor is there a formal recessional (closing procession).
  • It was once customary in some countries, especially England, to place a veiled monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament or a cross in a Holy Sepulchre".


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.
  • A day of silence and prayer which commemorates the dead Christ in the tomb. No Mass is celebrated. In some Anglican churches, including the Episcopal Church in the United States, there is provision for a simple liturgy of the word with readings commemorating the burial of Christ.
  • The tabernacle is left empty and open. The lamp or candle usually situated next to the tabernacle denoting the Presence of Christ is put out, and the remaining Eucharistic Hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday are kept elsewhere, usually the sacristy, with a lamp or candle burning before it, so that, in cases of the danger of death, they may be given as viaticum.
  • The celebration of Easter may begin after sundown on what is therefore liturgically Easter Sunday, though still Saturday in the civil calendar.


Easter Vigil

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

  1. The Service of Light
  2. The Liturgy of the Word
  3. 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.
  4. 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 initiated 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


Notable Holy Week observances

Cities famous for their Holy Week processions include:

Colombia



Costa Rica



Guatemala



Honduras



Italy



Malta

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 Maltamarker and Gozomarker. 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 Birgumarker, Bormlamarker,Ghaxaqmarker, Luqamarker, Mostamarker, Naxxarmarker, Paolamarker, Qormimarker, Rabatmarker, Sengleamarker, Vallettamarker, Żebbuġmarker and Żejtunmarker. Processions in Gozo will be in Nadurmarker, Victoriamarker, Xaghramarker Xewkija, and Żebbuġmarker.

Mexico



Nicaragua



Peru



Philippines

In the predominantly Catholic Philippinesmarker, 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 Fernandomarker, Pampangamarker), 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.

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 Pampangamarker), 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.

Spain

Sevillemarker 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 Andalusiamarker, 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 on the necks of costaleros (literally "sack men", because of the costal, a sack-like cloth that they wear over their neck, to soften the burden), 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 Statesmarker). 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.

Venezuela



Vietnam



Holy Week in Protestant churches

Many Protestant churches do not have the special ceremonies that distinguish Holy Week in Orthodox and Catholic churches. However, most Protestants conduct more informal celebrations of Holy Week, usually including sermons about the last week of Christ's life, and possibly some special services on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and or Easter Sunday. Anglicans/Episcopal, along with Protestants in the catholic tradition, such as Lutherans, observe Holy Week much as the Roman Catholic Church does. Of Protestant fellowships, perhaps the Holy Week services [Passion Week] of the Moravian Church are the most extensive, as the Congregation follows the life of Christ through His final week in daily services dedicated to readings from a harmony of the Gospel stories, responding to the actions in hymns, prayers and litanies, beginning on the eve of Palm Sunday and culminating in the "Easter Morning" or Easter Sunrise service begun by the Moravians in 1732.

See also



References

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