HOLY WEEK - WHAT HAPPENS AND WHY?


Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which may also be known as Passion Sunday in some denominations. In Christianity, the Passion (from Latin: passionem "suffering, enduring") is the short final period in the life of Jesus covering his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, with crowds of people who shouted praises and waved palm branches, and leading to his crucifixion on Mount Calvary. 


Holy Week in Western Christianity consists of:

    •    Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday)
    •    Monday to Wednesday.
    •    Tenebrae.
    •    Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday)
    •    Good Friday.
    •    Holy Saturday (Black Saturday)
    •    Easter Vigil.
   •    Easter Sunday.

Palm Sunday - In churches on this day Palm crosses are handed out to congregations in memory of Jesus’ triumphal  entrance into Jerusalem.

The days between Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday are known as Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday. One of the most notable events of Holy Monday was the cursing of the fig tree. Holy Tuesday, was remembered for the Parable of the Ten Virgins and Holy Wednesday was also known as Spy Wednesday (and remembers Judas Iscariot's intent to betray Jesus) -  the word spy, used in the term, means "ambush or snare”.

The Tenebrae (Latin for shadows or darkness) service is an ancient tradition in Christian history that still takes place in many churches, on one of the last three days of Holy Week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Holy Saturday. The purpose of this service is to remember the somber events that occurred in Jesus' life from the exuberant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through the night of Jesus' burial on Good Friday.

The most distinctive aspect of the service is the use of a Tenebrae "hearse," a holder for several lit candles. The flames of these candles are extinguished one by one as Scripture readings are shared to tell the story of Holy Week. This gradual descent into gloom is a representation of Jesus' increasing sorrow as the events of Passion Week unfolded. After the last verse is read, the last candle is put out, and the room is plunged into darkness.

​Holy Thursday also known as Maundy Thursday (the word “Maundy” comes to us as an Anglo-French word derived from the Latin “mandate,” which means “commandment.”)  commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. During the meal Jesus took bread and wine and shared them with his disciples. Christians continue to share bread and wine as part of their worship in church. The day is also known as Passion Thursday, Paschal Thursday or Sheer (or Shere) Thursday. The ritual washing of feet is usually included in the services on Maundy Thursday in remembrance of the way Jesus washed the feet of his twelve apostles at the Last Supper.  At the end of the service most churches strip bare their altars ready for the solemn services on Good Friday.

Good Friday, also known as "Holy Friday," is the Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday. It is celebrated as the day on which Jesus was crucified. On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Services are solemn - it is a day of mourning and there is no Holy Communion and Christians meditate on Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, and what this means for their faith. Why is it called Good Friday? One explanation is that Good Friday is good because Christ  “showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing".


​Holy Saturday commemorates the day that Jesus Christ lay in the tomb after his death. It is the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter Sunday. It is also known as Easter Eve, Easter Even or Black Saturday.  A vigil or night watch begins between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday. Traditionally the service starts outside the church when an Easter fire is kindled and the Paschal candle is blessed and then lit. Christians wait and watch, hopeful and confident that Christ will return at midnight.  After being lit outside, the candle is carried into the church, where most of the worshippers are waiting in darkness, which symbolises the darkness of Christ's tomb.  After more prayers and readings, the candles held by the congregation are lit from the Paschal candle.

Easter Sunday is the culmination of Holy Week and commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important day in the Christian calendar when sadness is turned to joy for all Christians as three days after being killed, Jesus rose from the dead and defeated evil forever. His victory over sin and death pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith.  Churches are filled with flowers, and there are special hymns and songs of celebration.

Why was Jesus executed... and was Judas to blame for what happened? Who saw what on Easter Sunday? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? 


Our friends at ReJesus have looked into some of the most frequently-asked questions about the events of Easter - just click below. If you have a question that isn't raised here, please contact us and we'll try & answer it!

Easter FAQs

The Passion

The original accounts of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus were written in the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – in the first century AD. For such ancient books, the story they tell is remarkably clear and compelling, and filled with human detail. Click the link below to find the readings for each day of Holy Week, following the events which led up to the crucifixion and beyond, as well as links to more from our friends at ReJesus.

At 5:45 am on Easter morning we hold a short service at Bede's Cross, followed by breakfast at St. Andrew's.


This is a great chance to experience the beginning of the most important day in the Christian calendar - why not set your alarm and come along?!

Dawn@Bede's Cross

Holy Week begins with the re-enactment of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This is the beginning of a journey of the imagination which takes us to the Upper Room for the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, through Jesus' betrayal, trial and crucifixion on Good Friday. On Easter Sunday we remember how those who are baptized are united with Christ in his death and resurrection. Traditionally, new fire is kindled and from this the Easter candle is lit and held aloft with the proclamation: 'The light of Christ'. This Easter liturgy can provide a real experience of new life. This passing from darkness to light offers hope to all the faithful, as the Church celebrates the risen Christ.


For a more detailed description of what Holy Week entails check out the information below.

 

What is Holy Week?