Holy Week


Introduction

The most solemn week of the Christian year, Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter, and is the week during which Christians particularly remember the last week of Jesus's life.  Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday commemorates Christ's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd.  The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,  "Hosanna!", "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!", "Blessed is the King of Israel!"    John 12:12-13

Later in that week many of the people in that cheering crowd would be among those shouting that Jesus should be executed.

Symbolism

The Palm Sunday story helps people think about the strength of their own commitment to their faith. We think about times that we have been unfaithful to Christ, or been hypocritical in proclaiming their support.

Church services

During the Palm Sunday service, we hold small crosses made of palm leaf, both to remember the palm leaves which the people of Jerusalem waved when Jesus arrived, and to remember the cross on which he died.  Some of us display the crosses from that service in their homes during the year as a symbol of their faith. The crosses are burned at the start of Lent the next year to provide the ash for Ash Wednesday.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. Christians remember it as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Mass (Eucharist).

The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The word maundy comes from the command (mandate) given by Christ at the Last Supper, that we should love one another.


Pedilavium: the washing of the feet

At the Maundy Thursday Mass the priest washes the feet of 12 people to commemorate Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples.

Good Friday

The most important events in Christianity are the death and later resurrection of Jesus Christ, who we believe is, and know to be, the Son of God, and whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter.  It commemorates the execution of Jesus by crucifixion.  Good Friday is a day of mourning.  During special Good Friday services we meditate on Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, and what this means for our faith.  The main service on Good Friday takes place between at 3pm. 


The last words from the cross

The Bible quotes seven last sentences that Jesus spoke from the Cross.

"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing".  Luke 23:34

"Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise".  Luke 23:43

"Woman, here is your son... Here is your mother".  John 19:26

"Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" ("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?").  Mark 15:34

"I am thirsty".  John 19:28

"It is finished".  John 19:30

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit".  Luke 23:46

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the Saturday after Good Friday which is often, but wrongly, called Easter Saturday.

Easter vigil service

The Easter Vigil Mass is the first Easter service, and takes place on the night of Holy Saturday.  The idea behind the service is for faithful Christians to wait and watch, hopeful and confident that Christ will return at midnight.  The Easter, or Paschal, candle is lit during this service. The service begins outside the church, where the priest and some worshippers gather around a fire, which is blessed.  After readings and prayers, the Paschal candle is lit from the fire.

The lit candle is now a symbol of Christ, risen as the light of the world, and come into the midst of the people.  After being lit outside, the candle is carried into the church, where people are waiting in darkness, which symbolises the darkness of Christ's tomb.  After more prayers and readings, the candles held by the congregation are lit from the Paschal candle.

The readings at the service tell of the creation of humanity, how humanity fell from grace, and was repeatedly rescued by God. The readings remind us of God's promise to be with us always.

The Paschal candle

The Paschal candle is marked with a cross, an Alpha, and an Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The 4 numbers of the year are marked between the arms. This symbolises that Christ has been, is now and always will be with humanity.  Throughout the year the candle stands near the font used for baptisms. Here it provides a reminder that baptism is a symbolic death and rebirth with Christ; just like Christ's death and Resurrection.

 
 
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