Holy Week starts on the Tuesday preceding Easter.
Holy Week is public holidays in Guatemala and Uruguay.
The Holy Week occurs on the last week of Lent preceding Easter, or commonly known as a Resurrection Day of the Christ Jesus. Lent is the forty-day period counting from Ash Wednesday until Black Saturday with Sundays excluded from counting.
The Roman Catholic Church has prescribed rules on the observance of Holy Week which includes fasting, self-denial, penitence, prayer, and thanksgiving. The event commemorates the suffering of Jesus Christ (Passion of Christ) and his eventual death by crucifixion.
The celebration of Holy Week varies from year to year simply because the date of Easter in Christian liturgical calendar varies yearly. For 2010 for example, the celebration of Easter was marked on April 4, the week preceding that date is the Holy Week. If you count 40 days back from April 4, excluding Sundays, that will point back to Ash Wednesday which was observed on February 17.
History of Holy Week
There are no records with clear-cut accounts to Holy Week, but indirect reference was made on Apostolical Constitutions written in the late 400AD commanding the faithful, especially the clergy, on the rules of observance of Easter and the week before it.
Codex Theodosianus, laws compiled during the time of the Holy Roman Empire also provides guidelines on the cessation of administration and conduct of justice in the courts of law. Later, accounts in the book ‘The Pilgrimage of Etheria’ describes how early Churches observe the holiday along with its completion.
During the time of the Holy Roman Empire, Christians give Palm Sunday, the Sunday preceding Holy Week, special attention through celebration. Today, Palm Sunday is commemorated by Catholics by bringing with them palm leaves during mass service with the clergy focusing their sermons on the life of Jesus especially on his successful entry into Jerusalem and his life leading to crucifixion. The books of the Bible namely Matthew, Mark, and Luke are read during the religious discourse.
Maundy Thursday; The Last Supper
The Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus and His disciples’ Last Supper. It is also the day when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.
Disciple John who is an author of one of the books in the Bible offers details of Jesus’ life on this day (John 13 – 17). Mathew, Mark, and Luke also share the same stories about Jesus’ before his crucifixion (Luke 22:14-35, Matthew 26:20-30, Mark 14:17-26).
The word “Maundy” came from Latin “Mandatum novum” which means ‘new commandment’ as written on John 13:34. This simply means that the Lord Jesus gave new mandate given by Jesus upon his disciples where it says,
”A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another as I have loved you.”Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos
In 2010, Maundy Thursday falls on April 1.
Good Friday is known as the day which commemorates the death of Jesus by crucifixion. The liturgical color that describes this day is red (previously black). The faithful, especially among the Catholics, consider this day as a day of strict fasting. It’s when full abstinence on meat and other bodily desires, and penance is observed. It is also known as Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion and Great Friday.
Some of the great traditions on Good Friday are the reading or singing of the Gospel of John (John 18:1-19:4), or part of it, in the Roman Catholic Church. Also, the cross is venerated usually by kneeling before it or kissing part of it as a sign of respect. People usually stop any form of work at 3:00 PM, a time when Jesus was believed to have died on the cross at Calvary.
Good Friday is scheduled on April 2 for this year (2010).
Holy Saturday; Latin: Sabbatum Sanctum
The Holy Saturday is the day just before Easter, and is the last day of Lent. Holy Saturday falls on April 3 in 2010. The clergy usually wears violet or purple as a Liturgical sign on this day.
The Holy Saturday represents Jesus lying in the tomb until his eventual resurrection on Easter. For the faithful, this is the time to reflect on the Lord’s passion faithfully waiting for the Lord’s resurrection on Easter.
The Roman Catholics consider this tradition as the Hour of the Mother or Mary. Just as Mary waited for her son’s triumph over death, the faithful also contemplate on this day as they wait for Christ’s resurrection on Easter.
Holy Week: Traditions, Customs and Activities
Christians, especially the members of the Catholic Churches such as the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church follows strict fasting and penance (remorse for past misconducts).
Pope Paul VI in 1966 made clearer rules on how penance and fasting should be done in order to provide the clergy and the public a guide that encompasses both the individuals who are required to fast and the type of food that should be avoided.
Meat is basically forbidden, including processed food made of fat and meat, and milk products but excluding eggs. However, soup made of meat juices are permitted such as chicken broth, soups cooked from meat or event the flavored ones.
Pilgrimage is also encouraged. However, since International travel is expensive, most people would content themselves in visiting local churches and pilgrimage sites which is still seen as acts that are in keeping with the said obligation.
In the Philippines where the majority of the population are Roman Catholics, visita iglesia or church visits is a tradition during Holy Week. The faithful would usually choose to visit seven (7) local churches and say a prayer and their wishes during each visit. This tradition is in fact an old practice of penance among the Catholics in old Rome.