Tag Archives: Holy Week observances

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