Holy Week is one of the most important celebrations of the Catholic religion. The days preceding the crucifixion of Jesus Christ are commemorated and his subsequent resurrection on Easter Sunday. At present, many traditional festivals are celebrated around this date, some of which have international fame among parishioners.
Surely if you have Easter holidays or your family celebrates these days, you have ever heard of Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, but do you know what happens on the days of the holy week? If you are not very clear, we will tell you what is celebrated each day of Holy Week so that you understand the importance of this tradition for Catholics around the world.
What is Holy Week? For Christians, Holy Week means commemorating the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This period is characterized by a strong liturgical activity within Catholic Christianity because for the parishioners. These days are a way to remember the history of their religion, redo their Christian vows, and confess their sins. Holy Week does not coincide historically with the events narrated in the Gospels. It is, instead, a symbolic period to commemorate the last days of Christ’s life and his subsequent resurrection.
This year 2021, Holy Week begins on Sunday, March 28, and runs one week until April 4. While it is true that the first day of Holy Week is Palm Sunday, we cannot forget that just 40 days before this special day, Ash Wednesday is celebrated. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Catholic calendar and symbolizes the nullity and penance of persons before their creator. The famous ash of this day is obtained from the burning of bouquets of the previous year.
Let’s see what is celebrated each of the following days of Holy Week to better understand the meaning and importance of this celebration.
For some Christians, Holy Week begins on Sorrow Friday, the Friday before Palm Sunday. On this day, also called Passion Friday, the pain of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Christ is commemorated.
This day is usually celebrated between Catholics and Orthodox. The Virgin of Sorrows is usually worshiped while singing the Stabat Mater, a prayer dedicated to the pain of the Mother of God. Some believers suspend the consumption of meat from this day until the end of Holy Week.
Palm Sunday represents the beginning of Holy Week and the end of Lent, making this day one of the most important in Christianity. On this day, the moment in which Jesus proclaims himself King of the Jews is honored and is received by the inhabitants of Jerusalem with bouquets made of palm leaves to welcome him to the city.
In Catholicism, this Sunday is commemorated with a mass in which the bouquets of each person are blessed, thus symbolizing the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. For the Catholic Church, this day and the rite of bouquets have as their meaning the glory and suffering of the death and resurrection of Christ.
This is followed by Holy Monday when the day Jesus expelled the merchants from the Temple of Jerusalem is commemorated. In addition, the Anointing that Mary, the sister of Lazarus, made to Jesus in his house is also commemorated.
The Gospel tells that six days before Passover, Jesus went to the house of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. During dinner, Mary took expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet and hair with it.
As with other days of Holy Week, on Holy Monday, processions take place in different parts of the world. The processions of Andalusia are especially well known, an autonomous community where Holy Week is celebrated in style.
Processions continue in different parts of Spain and South America. In the Gospel, it is Holy Tuesday when Jesus of Nazareth anticipates Judas’s betrayal and thus communicates it to his disciples, who, perplexed, ask Jesus to identify who the traitor will be. Thus, Jesus hands Judas a piece of greased bread and tells him, “What you have to do, do it right away.”
This day marks the end of Lent and the beginning of Easter. It is this day in which it is remembered that Judas met with the Jewish assembly of wise men to plan the betrayal of Jesus Christ in exchange for thirty pieces of silver.
Holy Thursday begins the Easter Triduum (days in which the Christian liturgy commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as we have said). On Holy Thursday, the last supper of Jesus with the disciples is remembered, where the Eucharist constitutes him, and Jesus carries out the washing of feet for his disciples.
We come to the celebration of Good Friday, one of the most intense days of Christianity. It is on Good Friday (the following day of the Easter Triduum) when the passion of Christ is commemorated, as well as his crucifixion and, finally, his death. According to tradition, during these 24 hours, Catholics fast and refrain from eating meat and other desires considered worldly.
Also called Saturday of Glory, Holy Saturday is commemorated the day after Jesus’ death and awaits his resurrection, which is why some refer to Holy Saturday as the Easter Vigil.
The Easter Vigil carried out from the early hours of Saturday to Sunday represents the prelude to the most important celebration of Christianity. The priests wear white or gold as a sign of joy for the resurrection of the Lord.
Thus we arrive at the celebration of resurrection Sunday, also called Easter Sunday or Glory Sunday. It is considered the central feast of Christians and, on this day, the resurrection of Jesus is commemorated three days after being crucified.
The origins of Holy Week are diverse, but for Christians, they have their bases in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, John, and Luke, mentioned in the Bible. Each of the apostles recounts his own experience through the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, three of the most important events for Christianity.
According to Christian tradition (based on sacred texts), this period comprises the specific events that we have mentioned in the previous section. It is worth mentioning that the origin of Holy Week is not understood without talking about the Jewish Passover, since it is in the book of Exodus where we understand that Jesus (the Messiah) is the Passover Lamb, sacrificed to redeem all the sins of the world.
It is also interesting to talk about other historical sources not officialized by the Catholic Church, which assure that Holy Week has its origins in the pagan festivities of the Goddess Astarte, corresponding to the Greek goddess Afrotidta. According to legend, this goddess fell from the sky into the Euphrates River inside an egg, which is why. At the beginning of Holy Week, in many countries of the world, celebrations such as the Easter Rabbit are held; a party that consists of painting and hiding eggs for children and adults to find.
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