Saturday, April 19, 2014
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Holy Week but were Afraid to Ask
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. In the Roman Rite, before 1955 it was known simply as Palm Sunday, and the preceding Sunday as Passion Sunday. From 1955 to 1971 it was called Second Sunday in Passiontide or Palm Sunday. Among Anglicans and Lutherans, the day is known as The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of the Messiah into Jerusalem, 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. Immediately following this great time of celebration in the entering of Jesus into Jerusalem, he begins his journey to the cross. This is followed by a procession or solemn entrance into the church, with the participants holding the blessed branches in their hands. The Mass or service of worship 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 XI, 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.
Tenebrae (Latin for 'shadows' or 'darkness') is celebrated within Western Christianity on the evening before Holy Thursday. This church service commemorates the sufferings and death of Christ. The distinctive ceremony of Tenebrae is the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms is chanted or recited.
Tenebrae services are celebrated by some parishes of the Catholic Church, Anglican and other Protestant churches such as Lutheranism. Some Churches of the Anglican communion celebrate Tenebrae with the same rite as Roman Catholics. Anglicans, including the Episcopal Church, usually observe the service on Wednesday in Holy Week, thereby preserving the importance of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday observances.
Also referred to as Holy Thursday or Great Thursday in some Christian denominations, Maundy Thursday is observed on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. Maundy Thursday services are typically more solemn occasions, marked by the shadow of Jesus' betrayal.
The word "Maundy" is derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning "commandment," Maundy refers to the commands Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper: to love with humility by serving one another and to remember his sacrifice.
Two important biblical events are the primary focus of Maundy Thursday solemnizations: Before the Passover meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. By performing this lowly act of service, the Bible says in John 13:1 that Jesus "showed them the full extent of his love." By his example, Jesus demonstrated how Christians are to love one another through humble service. For this reason, many churches practice foot-washing ceremonies as a part of their Maundy Thursday services.
During the Passover meal, Jesus took bread and wine and asked his Father to bless it. He broke the bread into pieces, giving it to his disciples and said, "This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Then he took the cup of wine, shared it with his disciples and said, "This wine is the token of God's new covenant to save you--an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you." These events recorded in Luke 22:19-20 describe the Last Supper and form the biblical basis for the practice of Communion.
For this reason, many churches hold special Communion services as a part of their Maundy Thursday celebrations. Likewise, many congregations observe a traditional Passover Seder meal.
In the Roman Catholic Church and (optionally) in the Anglican Church, a sufficient number of hosts are consecrated for use also in the Good Friday service, and at the conclusion 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".
In some Churches, the altars of the church (except the one used for altar of repose) are later stripped quite bare and, to the extent possible, crosses are removed from the church or veiled. (In the pre-Vatican II rite, crucifixes and statues are covered with violet covers during Passion time, but the crucifix covers can be white instead of violet on Holy Thursday.) In Methodist and Lutheran churches, the altar is covered with black, if the altar cloths have not been removed.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday, or Easter Friday, though the latter properly refers to the Friday in Easter week.
Based on the details of the Canonical gospels, the Crucifixion of Jesus was most likely to have been on a Friday (the day before the Sabbath) (John 19:42). The estimated year of the Crucifixion is AD 33, by two different groups, and originally as AD 34 by Isaac Newton via the differences between the Biblical and Julian calendars and the crescent of the moon. A third method, using a completely different astronomical approach based on a lunar Crucifixion darkness and eclipse model (consistent with Apostle Peter's reference to a "moon of blood" in Acts 2:20), points to Friday, 3 April AD 33.
Roman Catholic and Anglican Christians treat Good Friday as a fast day. The Roman Catholic Church defines as only having one full meal with, if needed, two small snacks that together do not make a full meal; the Anglican Communion defines fasting as "the amount of food eaten is reduced".
In some countries, such as Malta, Philippines, Italy and Spain, 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, in the Roman Catholic Church, remains completely bare, without texts, candlesticks, or altar cloths. In the Lutheran Church and Methodist Church, the altar is usually draped in black.
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, in the Catholic Church the colour of the vestments is red. The Lutheran Church, Methodist Church, and Presbyterian Church continue to use black, as was the practice in the Catholic Church before 1970. If a bishop celebrates, he wears a plain mitre.
The solemnity and somberness of the occasion has encouraged the persistence over the centuries of liturgical forms without substantial modification. Some churches hold a three-hour meditation from midday, the Three Hours' Agony.
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". If crucifixes were covered starting with the next to last Sunday in Lent, they are unveiled without ceremony after the Good Friday service.
In some parishes of the Anglican Church, Catholic Church, and Lutheran Church, the "Three Hours Devotion" is observed. This traditionally consists of a series of sermons, interspersed with singing, one on each of the Seven Last Words from the Cross, together with an introduction and a conclusion.
Another pious exercise carried out on Good Friday is that of the Stations of the Cross. The celebration at the Colosseum with participation by the Pope has become a traditional fixture widely covered by television.
Holy Saturday is commemorated on the Saturday of Holy Week after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter. It commemorates the day that Jesus Christ's body lay in the tomb. On this occasion the Church waits at the Lord's tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and Death and while awaiting his Resurrection. Holy Saturday is derived from the latin Sabbatum Magnum ("Great Sabbath"). It is also called Holy Saturday, Easter Eve, Black Saturday and Easter Saturday though on the religious calendar this phrase is more correctly applied to the Saturday in Easter Week. Holy Saturday is a vigil, in which the early church expected that the second advent would occur on an Easter Sunday.
On this day, the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows is assigned the title Our Lady of Solitude, referring to her solace and lonely emotional state associated with grievance and mourning. Mass is not celebrated on what is liturgically Holy Saturday. The celebration of Easter begins after sundown on what, though still Saturday in the civil calendar, is liturgically Easter Sunday.
The Church abstains from the Sacrifice of the Mass, with the sacred table left bare, until after the solemn Vigil, that is, the anticipation by night of the Resurrection, when the time comes for paschal joys, the abundance of which overflows to occupy fifty days.
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 (provisions for the journey).