Holy Week is an important time for Christians throughout the world. But not everyone knows every detail about why it's celebrated or what exactly it's composed of. So here are the answers to questions about Holy Week you were afraid to ask.
What is Holy Week?
Holy Week is a time when Catholics gather to remember and participate in the Passion of Jesus Christ.
The Passion was the final period of Christ's life in Jerusalem. It spans from when He visited Jerusalem to when He was crucified.
How do Catholics celebrate Holy Week?
There are four special ceremonies during Holy Week.
Palm Sunday recalls Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem. Parishioners typically form a procession and carry palms.
Holy Thursday commemorates Judas' betrayal and the Last Supper, when Jesus consecrated bread and wine. In the morning, bishops gather with priests from their diocese for the Chrism Mass. They bless holy oils during the Mass. The washing of the feet takes place during the Mass of the Lord's Supper later that day.
Good Friday is one of the darkest days of the year for Catholics. It covers Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion. His death and burial are also memorialized. There is no Mass.
Holy Saturday remembers the day which Jesus spent in the grave resting. There are no ceremonies at all, but the Easter Vigil takes place at the end of the day.
Why is my Church decorated the way it is?
On Good Friday and Holy Saturday, noticeable changes to take place in the way churches are decorated. Many churches cover decorations in purple or black, or simply remove the decor. In Italy, crosses are covered a week before. Holy water and the Eucharist are also taken from churches on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
When did Catholics start celebrating Holy Week?
Holy Week celebrations have existed since the beginnings of the Church. As early as the 4th century, reports existed of Christians in Egypt, Palestine, and present-day Turkey and Armenia reenacting the Passion. It's likely that the celebrations took place for years before the initial recorded reports. Holy Week celebrations spread to Europe by the 5th century.
When is Holy Week?
Holy Week is the final week before Easter. Put another way, it's the last week of Lent. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday. This year, Holy Week takes place from March 29 to April 4. Easter takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21. This year, it is on April 5.
When did the original Holy Week occur?
The Resurrection occurred on Sunday, April 9. This means that Holy Thursday would have taken place on April 6.