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Holy Week

28 March 2010

Holy Week is the week before Easter, when the Church celebrates the events of the Passion of Our Lord, and culminates with the great celebration of Easter for the 50 days following. The breakdown of the week and its celebrations are as follows:

  • Palm Sunday — procession of the blessed palms to celebrate Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem
  • Holy Monday — readings commemorate the Anointing of Jesus
  • Holy Tuesday — readings commemorate Jesus’s prophecy of his own death
  • Spy Wednesday — readings speak of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus

The Holy Triduum

  • Maundy Thursday
    • the Chrism Mass, a bishop-led mass with a blessing for chrism (the oil used for confirmation and anointings)
    • the celebration of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist (the so-called “Mass of the Lord’s Supper”)
    • the foot washing as a sign of the “new commandment [Latin mandatum]…[to] love one another as [he] has loved you.”
    • the stripping of the Altar
    • often, Tenebrae (a sort of burial service)
    • the procession the Altar of Repose
  • Good Friday
    • Veneration of the Cross
    • Stations of the Cross
    • in some places, the Mass of the Presanctified–celebration of Mass is forbidden, but the Eucharist is distributed from what was presanctified on Maundy Thursday and kept at the Altar of Repose
    • often, a service called the Three Hours (or Tre Hore) will combine all of this during the three hours when Jesus hung on the cross, i.e. noon to 3:00pm
    • often, Tenebrae (see above)
    • often, Passion Plays will be held on this day
  • Holy Saturday
    • a reduced service which serves more or less as a wake at the Tomb
    • No Mass at all, period.
  • Easter Sunday
    • late on the previous night, the holiest service of the year, called the Easter Vigil, includes:
      • the Service of Light — the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the recitation of the Exsultet
      • the Service of Lessons — a series of very long readings that recount salvation history, always including the Exodus
      • Christian Initiation (Baptism and/or Confirmation), or Renewal of Baptismal Vows
      • the Easter Eucharist — including the Great Alleluia, the return of the Gloria in excelsis, the Epistle, the Gospel, and communion
    • in many places, there are elaborate sunrise services, most saliently the Moravian Sunrise Service in Old Salem, Winston-Salem, NC
    • extravagant use of lilies, the symbol of Easter
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