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Holy Week

Holy Week History, Information, Prayers, Resources, Traditions, & More

Holy Week Definition and Summary

Holy Week includes the final week of Lent and part of the Paschal Triduum. Holy Week runs from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday, and includes Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. It falls in late March, or April. In 2015, Holy Week runs from March 29th - April 4th (dates in other years). Prayer: A Holy Week Prayer

Basic Facts About Holy Week

buy Liturgical Color(s): Violet (Purple); various
Type of Holiday: Fast
Time of Year: The Last Week of Lent Before Easter Sunday
Duration: Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday
Celebrates/Symbolizes: Various Final Events of Jesus' Life
Alternate Names: hebdomada major
Scriptural References: Matthew 21, 26-27; Mark 11, 14-15; Luke 19, 22-23; John 13, 16-19

Introduction

Holy Week is the last week of Lent before Easter, beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Holy Saturday. In an older nomenclature, Holy Week is the second Sunday of Passiontide (Passiontide begins on the fifth Sunday of Lent). Holy Week is the part of the Church Year where Jesus' final moments are commemorated. The final three days of Holy week are part of the Paschal Triduum. Holy Week consists of the following events, which have their own ChurchYear.Net pages. To get more details, click on the specific links:

Palm Sunday:
On the sixth Sunday of Lent we commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Worship services include blessing of the palms and a procession. The liturgical color is red. Also known as "Fig Sunday."

Spy Wednesday:
This is an old and uncommon name for the Wednesday of Holy Week, which commemorates Judas' agreement to betray Jesus (see Matthew 26:3-5, 14-16).

Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday):
The name "Maundy Thursday" is derived from Jesus "mandate" to love one another as he loves us. This day celebrates the institution of the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Ordination. Also known as "Shear Thursday."

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion:
A Fast day of the Church commemorating Jesus' crucifixion and death. Worship customs include Veneration of the Cross, communion from the reserved Maundy Thursday host, and the singing or preaching of the Passion (reading or singing excerpts of the Passion story from John's gospel). In the Catholic Church, the liturgical color was formerly black, but is now red.

Holy Saturday:
This is the final day of Holy Week. There are few specific customs associated with Holy Saturday, except that it is the final night before the Feast of the Resurrection, which begins at the Great Easter Vigil.

Other customs and events, including Tenebrae, have developed as Holy Week customs. Generally Holy Week is a busy time for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as we build up to the Queen of all Church Feasts, Easter (Pascha).

History

Holy Week, i.e. the series of pre-Easter festivities commemorating various events of the final days of Christ's life, probably developed in 4th century Jerusalem, possibly beginning with St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Christians from all over the world would take pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and the Church of Jerusalem provided rites and worship dedicated to reenacting the final events of Christ's life. The first account we have of such rites is the diary of the pilgrimage of Egeria to Jerusalem around AD 381. Gradually many of these customs and holy days spread to the wider Christian world. For more history, please see our more detailed individual pages linked above.

A Holy Week Video Card From Us

Worship And Prayer Resources

Lenten Prayers
Good Friday Prayer
Maundy Thursday Prayer
Palm Sunday Prayer
The Great Litany
The Decalogue
Seven Penitential Psalms (in English)
Seven Penitential Psalms (in Latin)
Lenten Canticles
Stations of the Cross
Passion Sermon III by Pope St. Leo

Holy Week Art, Photos, and Images

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Jesus on the Cross With Mary (D. Bennett)

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Tomb with Cross (D. Bennett)

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Christ Washing Peter's Feet (Ford Maddox Brown)

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Christ on the Cross With Mary Magdalene (Signorelli)

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Christ Carrying the Cross (El Greco)

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Deposition from the Cross (Fiorentino)

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Lamentation at the Tomb (Van der Weyden)

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Jesus in the Tomb (Jean-Jacques Henner)

More Liturgical Artwork

Holy Week and Lent Books

              

              

Lent Reading List
More Christian & Church Year Books

Traditions and Symbols

Traditions
See Links to Individual Sites

Symbols
See Links to Individual Sites

Holy Week Games and Educational Materials

Lent Crossword Puzzle (html)
Lent Crossword Puzzle (pdf)
Interactive Lent Crossword Puzzle

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is Holy Week So Important?
Holy Week is important because it commemorates the events of Christ's final days and passion. This includes the institution of the Eucharist and the crucifixion. Obviously, Christ's institution of the Eucharist and his passion and death are important in many ways, especially in terms of their importance in the reconciliation of God and humanity (the atonement). Holy Week commemorates these important events, and is therefore a very busy time in the life of the Church. For an article explaining why Catholics spend so much time at church during Holy Week, check out You're at Church A Lot During Holy Week...How Strange.

2. Why Doesn't My Church Observe Holy Week?
There are various possibilities. Perhaps your particular church considers Holy Week to be unbiblical (although the whole week is based explicitly on Scripture). Some denominations that came out of the "Radical Reformation" got rid of the Church Year, believing it to be a manmade tradition. Another possibility is that your church believes Holy Week is outdated and places too much emphasis on sin and guilt. A final reason may be that your pastor is not familiar with the rich meaning behind Holy Week, which means you should send him to this site.

3. What are the Western Catholic Fast Guidelines for Good Friday?
Fasting means eating only one full meatless (no animal flesh) meal on this day. However, one may still eat a breakfast and even a lunch in addition to a full meal if the two additional small meals do not add up to a second full meal. Snacking is not allowed. Drinking coffee, tea, juices, etc, between meals is permitted on fast days. The requirements are slightly different for those of certain ages. Fasting is only required of those from ages 18-59, although parents are expected to teach their children the reasons behind their fasting, etc. Those with health conditions are excluded. Note that some Western Bishop Conferences, Eastern Catholic Rites, and Orthodox Christians have different fasting guidelines, so it is wise to check with your local parish about expectations. These are simply the minimum expectations. Additional forms of self-denial, within reason, can also be spiritually beneficial.

4. What is the Paschal Triduum?
The Paschal Triduum, often called the Easter Triduum or simply the Triduum, consists of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. This includes the Great Easter Vigil, the high point of the Triduum. The word Triduum comes from the Latin word meaning "three days." It begins the evening of Maundy Thursday and ends at Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday. Thus the Triduum consists of three full days which begin and end in the evening. The Triduum is not part of Lent (at least liturgically), but Holy Thursday and Good Friday are still reckoned as part of the traditional forty days of Lent. The Triduum celebrates the heart of our faith and salvation: the death and resurrection of Christ, and is thus the high point of the liturgical year.

General Links

You're at Church A Lot During Holy Week...How Strange
All About Lent
All About Ash Wednesday
All About Easter
Table of Movable Major Catholic Seasons and Holidays

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This page written by . Last updated 03-23-2013.



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