What Does Holy Week Mean For Us?
We all know that Holy Week is an important time for Catholics throughout the world, but do we truly understand its deeper meaning?
Behind all those Easter eggs, Easter bunnies and everything else in between that commercialises this sacred time, we reflect on what Holy Week means to us and seek new ways to encounter God.
What is Holy Week?
Holy Week, is the final week of Lent, starting on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Holy Week is a time in which we gather to remember and participate in the Passion of Jesus Christ. The Passion was the final period of Christ’s life in Jerusalem, which spans from when He arrived in Jerusalem, to when He was crucified.
How do Catholics celebrate Holy Week?
Four special ceremonies commemorate the events of Christ’s Passion, starting with his entrance into Jerusalem, when palm branches were placed in His path, through to His arrest on Holy Thursday and Crucifixion on Good Friday, to Holy Saturday, the day that Christ’s body lay in the tomb.
Let’s dig a little deeper…
Palm Sunday recalls Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey to the praise of the townspeople, who laid palms in front of him as a sign of homage. In these times, this was a customary practice for people of great respect.
The Easter Triduum is especially important for Catholics and considered ‘the summit of the liturgical calendar’. It marks the three days just before Easter, starting on Holy Thursday.
Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, when Jesus consecrated bread and wine the night before he was betrayed and arrested. This is one of the most beautiful liturgies of the entire liturgical year. During Mass, the priest washes the feet of twelve parishioners, just as Jesus did.
Good Friday marks the day of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. The events of Good Friday are commemorated in the Stations of the Cross, a 14-step devotion, traditionally prayed during Lent and especially on Good Friday. It is also a day of fast and abstinence within the Church.
Holy Saturday remembers the day which Jesus spent in the grave resting. This day celebrates the vigil that Christ’s followers held for him outside of his tomb, waiting for his resurrection. It is a day of quiet and prayerful reflection on the true gravity of the crucifixion of Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice.
Easter is the greatest celebration in the Catholic church because it completes Holy week that ends with the resurrection of Jesus. Easter celebrates the beginning and foundation of Christianity. Easter is thus a symbolic reminder for Catholics that Jesus has overcome death and sin. It signifies the victory of good over evil.
What does all this mean for us as Catholics?
The Easter story teaches us humility and love. It probes our desire to think of ourselves as compassionate and generous people.
The life and teaching, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ put together, are a lesson on the efficacy of humility, service, self-sacrifice, and true love.
As Catholics, we live in hope, not fear and with God’s mercy and love, can overcome anything life throws at us.
God bless and may everyone have a holy Easter this year, united in prayer, hope and love.