When is Holy Week (07.05.2018)
Observed in Mainly countries with Roman Catholic populations
Observed on Last week of Lent
Observed by Roman Catholics
The last week of Lent, which is a 40-day period of fasting and abstinence that precedes Easter, is traditionally known as Holy Week. It commemorates the last week of Jesus’ mortal life and includes Palm Sunday, Maundy (or Holy) Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Easter Sunday-the day of Jesus’ Resurrection-is not a part of Holy Week.
Rather, the week anticipates the Easter celebration.
According to Christian theology, Jesus is the savior of humanity, the Son of God and second member in the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the teacher whose life and words provide the foundation for the religion. It is his life and death that Christians remember during this week.
Origins and History
Holy Week has been a period of intensified religious devotion since the time of the Apostles, but official status was accorded it in the fourth century when every day of the week preceding Easter was considered holy. Until the fourth century Easter was the earliest Christian holy day observed and considered the most important, together with Epiphany.
This new perception was reflected in the opinion of St. Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296–373 C.E), when he referred to this week in 329 as a symbol of Creation and mentioned the practice of fasting during these six days. (The fast was usually broken on Thursday for Communion in church.) “Peregrinatio Artheriae” (“The Pilgrimage of Aetheria”), the nun Aetheria’s account of her pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the years 381 to 385, describes the observances of Holy Week. She relates the reenactment of events, first at Bethany, where Jesus’ feet were anointed, and then at Jerusalem, recalling Jesus’ triumphant entrance into the city on Palm Sunday. People gathered at the Mount of Olives to pray, and then all returned to Jerusalem with the bishop, carrying palms and olive branches. The pilgrims who visited Jerusalem returned home with these customs. Holy Week practices reached Spain in the fifth century and England and France in the seventh century. The Wednesday and Friday fasts also became popular, obeying Jesus’ command to fast on Wednesday in memory of his betrayal and on Friday to commemorate his suffering on the Cross.
The Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday of Holy Week form the Easter Triduum. A triduum is the three days before a Roman Catholic festival, a time of special prayers and observances.
Here it begins on the evening of Maundy Thursday with the sharing of the Eucharist and concludes with the evening prayers on Easter Sunday.
The days that make up Holy Week possess a significance far beyond that of the individual events associated with each day. No one day or event can be seen in isolation because each contains within itself the past, present, and the future. For example the welcome Jesus received on his arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday represents the triumph of his teachings, his past miracles, and the beginning of the end as humanity understands it (because Jesus would die in Jerusalem only five days later), and the true finality of the Resurrection. Similarly the Crucifixion on Good Friday represents the culmination of Jesus’ Incarnation, his mortal death, and the promise of his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
This is a special observance in many countries, and processions are held throughout Holy Week. In countries that have a strong Catholic presence, the events of Jesus’ last few days are reenacted, and there are more than a few mock crucifixions. The color purple is the color of the church and therefore the color of the first part of Holy Week. On the days between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, black predominates.