What is Holy Week All About?
Holy Week is the final week of Lent, leading up to our celebration of Easter. This time of preparation reaches its climax during Holy Week, the holiest and most intense period of the Church’s worship in the liturgical year.
Following Jesus step by step represents the true goal of Holy Week, embracing his solitude and sacrifice and uniting ourselves to his saving work. This is a week for us to enter into even more silent prayer and sacrifice.
As the holiest week, it is not a time for entertainment and distractions. Spend even more time reading the Gospels, especially the Passion accounts. Increase your fasting from both food and anything digital. Most importantly, enter into the Church’s liturgical celebration, which makes the events of this weekly mystically present to us.
Holy Week draws us into the actions of Christ as he enters into the “hour” of his death and resurrection. We are called to accompany Jesus on a great pilgrimage through these days, following him step by step. We begin on Palm Sunday, joining the crowds who welcome him into Jerusalem, the same crowds who will shout “crucify him!” five days later.
We read two Gospels this day, one launching the Palm Sunday procession at the back of the Church and then the solemn reading of the Passion, from one of the Synoptic Gospels. Over the next few days of Holy Week, we commemorate Jesus’s teaching in Jerusalem, his anointing in Bethany, and the cursing of the fig tree. On Spy Wednesday, we also reflect on Judas’s plans to betray his master.
The Sacred Triduum — the three holiest days of this holy week — begins on Holy Thursday, the commemoration of the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus in the Garden. We strip the altar bare to symbolize Christ’s captivity, and process with the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose to spend time with Christ in the Garden.
Good Friday commemorates the Passion of Christ, allowing the Cross to stand alone without the celebration of Mass (the only day of the year without it). There is another solemn reading of the Passion, this time from John’s Gospel, a veneration of the Cross, and the receiving of Communion (with hosts from the previous evening).
Finally on Holy Saturday, we see the supreme Sabbath rest of Christ in the tomb, a time of mourning and also anticipation. The Easter Vigil that night contains the most moving liturgical symbolism of the year, beginning with a fire in the darkness, showing how the resurrection illumines the darkness of the world in sin. The Vigil narrates salvation history through its many readings and this is the time converts enter the Church by receiving baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist.
Like the neophytes receiving those sacraments for the first time, Easter calls us to a rebirth in the Christian life, truly living as if Jesus has risen and everything has changed in light of his victory.
Are you looking for a way to enter more deeply into Holy Week this year? Join thousands of men around the world for the final 7 days of Lent and finish Lent strong: Click here to start now!
Dr. Staudt holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Ave Maria University and B.A. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). He serves as Director of Content for Exodus and as Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver. He was previously the Associate Superintendent for the Archdiocese of Denver. He has founded a Catholic school and served as a DRE in two parishes and as Director of Catholic Studies at the University of Mary. He is the author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN), Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today (Angelico Press). His editing experience includes six years as the managing editor of the journal Nova et Vetera and the books Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press) and The University and the Church: Don J. Briel’s Essays on Education (Cluny Media).
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