The word "Easter" comes from Old English, meaning simply the "East." The sun which rises in the East, bringing light, warmth, and hope, is a symbol for the Christian of the rising Christ, who is the true Light of the world. The Paschal Candle used during the Easter Vigil is a central symbol of this divine light, which is Christ. It is kept near the ambo throughout Easter Time and lit for all liturgical celebrations.
Holy Week is the most sacred week in the liturgical year in Christianity. It is a time of devotion to the Passion of Christ.
The events of this week recount the “passion narratives” in the New Testament Gospels that relate the suffering (passio in Latin), death and burial of Jesus Christ culminating in the joyous celebration of the resurrection.
It consists of:
- Palm Sunday (Sixth Sunday of Lent) – entrance by Jesus into Jerusalem
- Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday
- Holy Wednesday
- Maundy Thursday – the Last Supper
- Good Friday – Jesus’ agony on the cross
- Holy Saturday – visiting the tomb of Jesus
- Easter Vigil
- Easter Day
The Easter Triduum of Holy Week are the days of Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Thursday marks the Last Supper that Jesus shares withy his disciples, his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, and his arrest at the Garden of Gethsemane.
It was after the Last Supper than Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and prayed – and where he was arrested in the garden.
Services usually include an act of footwashing, which commemorates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as an act of service on the night of his arrest.
It is also a reminder of the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples to love one another as he had loved them – a love so graphically displayed in Jesus giving up his life on the cross on Good Friday.
Good Friday marks Jesus’ agony on the cross. This day commemorates Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate and his sentence of death to appease the crowd. Jesus was stripped, flogged and crowned with thorns then forced to carry His Cross to the place of His execution. There he was nailed to the Cross between two thieves who were also crucified. Late that afternoon, seeking to ensure His death, a Roman guard stabbed him in His side with a spear. When Jesus died, an earthquake is said to have occurred as well as a great darkness which covered the land. It was then many knew Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus was taken and laid quickly in a borrowed tomb, in accord with Jewish law, which required the dead to be buried by sundown before the Sabbath. In our Churches, the Tabernacle is left empty to show that Christ has departed. Good Friday is a ay of fasting when we reflect deeply upon the Passion of Christ and the Stations of the Cross.
Holy Saturday is a day when there is no Mass. Parishes hold services, but there is no distribution of Communion. On this day we remember that Jesus was descended into hell where He preached the Gospel to those who died before and opened the way to heaven for all those who were worthy. The Triduum, and Lenten season, concludes with a late-night Easter Vigil. The liturgy recalls the vigil, the ‘keeping watch’ of Jesus’ female disciples at the tomb of Jesus, which begins in darkness where a new paschal or Easter fire is kindled. This is followed by the joyous celebration of the first Eucharist of Easter, and when catechumens are initiated into the Body of Christ and the renewal of baptismal vows by the faithful.
Easter Sunday is the day on which it was discovered the tomb was empty. Mary Magdalene, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, a two other women went to the tomb on the morning while it was still dark to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. They found the stone to the opening had been rolled away and an angel was there who told them Jesus was not there, he had risen and they were to go and tell the disciples. We celebrate with the proclamation from the empty tomb that Christ is Risen!
‘The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.’