Holy Week and What It Means to the Faithful

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The last week of Lent is referred to as the Holy Week.  It starts on Palm Sunday and includes Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, and the Triduum consisting of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, sometimes also referred to as Black Saturday.  Easter Sunday which is considered the most awaited event in the Christian faith is no longer considered part of the Holy Week because it is distinct in itself being the triumph of Christ over death.

Holy Week essentially commemorates the Passion and Death of Christ.  The celebration of the Holy Mass is not done from Maundy Thursday up to Holy Saturday and crosses in churches are veiled.  After sundown on Holy Saturday however, the celebration of Easter begins  through the Easter Vigil.

There are four parts to the Easter Vigil including the Service of Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism, and the Holy Eucharist.  The Holy Eucharist in this vigil is considered the first mass for Easter Sunday.  The vigil is expected to finish before breaking of dawn.

During the Holy Week, many traditions are observed including fasting and abstinence, meditation and deep prayer, various forms of sacrifices depending on the culture, praying the Stations of the Cross, visiting several churches or the Visita Iglesia, or simply the observance of quiet.  Fasting as a religious observance is willingly abstaining from food, drinks, or both.  Catholics equate fasting with reducing intake of food to one full meal for a day.  Meat is also not taken during all Fridays of Lent.  Fasting is required on specific days on Catholics aged 18 to 59.  The abstinence from meat on specified days however includes Catholics from 14 years old.

In some countries like the Philippines, there are still some penitential rites being performed which are not really encouraged by the Catholic Church.  These include being nailed to the cross, flagellation, and willfully undergoing other severe forms of physical pain.  The Catholic Church looks favorably on other practices such as the “senakulo” or the reenactment of Christ’s passion through plays or visiting places that encourage prayer and meditation.  Staying at home to pray is equally acceptable for Holy Week.

Image: cohchurch.com

24 thoughts on “Holy Week and What It Means to the Faithful

  1. It’s admirable for people who does this panata of being nailed to the cross and other painful acts because of their faith but there are a lot more means of doing penance.

    1. Yes, there are a lot. Sometimes though, it is quite difficult to change traditions and personal beliefs.

  2. for all of us who had this very strong faith to GOD. This week really means for us a lot.this where actually the time of renewal of faith. .for a better and stronger christian beyond evil temptation. .

    1. Holy Week can really provide the right atmosphere for renewal of faith but we really need to want it to happen.

    1. Wow, that would be an exciting thing to do. My family may just be spending the rest of the Holy Week near home since there are many Holy Week activities in our community.

  3. The last days of the Son of God named Jesus Christ are the most agonizing story ever told but the most hopeful and encouraging life occurrence in history to be remembered.

  4. When I was a little girl, my mother and I have this PANATA to go to the SHRINE HILLS and have our STATION OF THE CROSS. Though I am a Christian now, I still respect her beliefs. But I prefer to stay home and have my own panata. I read the bible and have my own meditation and reflection.

    1. In time, people develop their own ways of observing Holy Week. The important thing is that the message brought by the story of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ is not lost.

  5. I agree Holy Week is for the faithful to reflect on Christ suffering. I am just wondering, why Easter Sunday is no longer part of holy week when it should be the most important part since it is the day that our Lord Jesus has risen from the dead.

    1. You are right when you say that Easter is a very important event in the Christian faith. However, since the Holy Week is about the Passion and death of Christ, it distinguishes Easter Sunday because it is the triumph of Christ over death. Therefore, its non-inclusion in the Holy Week per se is not to diminish Easter’s importance but rather to highlight its importance.

    1. That is essentially what Holy Week is about but it would benefit us to understand the meaning behind the very moving story of the Passion and Death of Christ.

  6. Havent tried that vigil yet, but our family do the Visita Iglesia which I usually insisted. Friday, we choose to stay at home than to roam around and this is the time of death of Christ from the cross so we highly value that moment. Saturday, that is where we have our outing. 🙂

    1. This Saturday evening, my daughter will be one of the angels throwing flowers for the Salubong so our family will be there. Quite a nice way to greet Easter!

  7. I find it heartbreaking when some Catholics never even know the real essence of Holy Week. Just yesterday (Good Friday) some Catholic neighbors almost closed the street just to drink beer while singing out loud with their videoke machine. Just… ugh… *sigh*… Good thing there are blog posts such as yours to remind us about the true meaning of Lent.

    1. We cannot do anything about what other people do except perhaps to show by example how it should be in the Catholic way.

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