Holy Week is the time that we, as the church, commemorate, reflect upon, and reenact the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Western Christianity, each day of Holy Week has its own significance and particular celebrations. In general, the church is encouraged to follow the biblical stories corresponding to each day represented in Holy Week: beginning with Christ's entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, moving through the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, and leading us toward the Resurrection on Easter morning. The Holy Week story highlights the contrast between the excitement and celebration at the beginning of the week, the sadness and suffering throughout week, and the miraculous and joyous nature of its ending.
Palm Sunday (also known as Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion), the last Sunday in the Lenten Season, commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem preceding his crucifixion. As he entered, the people of Jerusalem recognized Jesus as their long-awaited messiah king, waving palms and shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” What would it have been like to walk in the midst of the crowd, celebrating the new king?
Maundy Thursday (from the Latin “Dias Mandatum,” meaning “the day of the new commandment”) is a celebration of the last supper that Jesus took with his disciples, family, and friends. It was during this traditional Passover meal that Jesus initiated the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist, also known as the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion. What would it have been like to sit around the table, receiving the bread and wine from Jesus’ hands?
Good Friday (from the German “Gute Freitag,” meaning “good, holy, or God’s Friday”) is perhaps the most solemn and profound day of Holy Week. This day commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus as the pinnacle of the week, experienced with great humility and reverence. One of the oldest traditions of this day is the Veneration of the Cross, where the faithful honor a wooden cross with ritual acts of devotion. What would it have been like to kneel at the foot of the cross, facing the suffering and death of a beloved friend?
Easter Sunday follows Holy Week, the end of the season of Lent. Easter (also called the “Pascha”) is the traditional feast celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and begins the fifty-day season of the church year called Eastertide. Easter is a time of great joy and miraculous wonder as we celebrate the presence of the risen Lord in our lives. What would it have been like to stand with the risen Lord that first Easter morning, experiencing the joy of a new way of life?
I invite you to make your own journey through Holy Week this year, as we prepare once again to meet the risen Lord.