|Holy Week Leads to Easter|
Christians around the world use the term ‘Holy Week’ to describe the week leading up to Easter. It is called ‘Holy’ because it is the week in which Christians commemorate with special ceremonies the most sacred events which they believe have brought them salvation – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Holy Week – History:
Holy Triduum :
Passover is the central feast of the Jewish year. Jewish people remember and celebrate the great event in their history, when God delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and led them to freedom and settlement in the Promised Land. They commemorate the night in Egypt when Yahweh passed over the Israelite houses marked with the blood of a sacrificial lamb – the sign that would spare them from destruction. They mark these great events in their history by eating a paschal lamb, standing up and dressed for a journey, as their forebears did before fleeing from Egypt to freedom.
The death of Jesus occurred during the Jewish Passover of that year, and the Christian liturgy has borrowed some Passover themes from the Jewish festival. It relates the Jewish Passover to the ‘Passover’ of Jesus, the ‘Paschal’ Lamb, from death to life in the resurrection on Easter Day. During these days Christians share not just in a re-enactment of historical events, but in ceremonies which, as the liturgist J.D. Crichton says, “make present to people in the here and now the redeeming power of Christ’s saving acts in the past”.
Today’s liturgy recalls the commission (or mandatum, the Latin word from which ‘Maundy’ comes) which Jesus gave his disciples to follow his example, when he washed their feet. By this act – the act of a servant – Jesus was saying to them that they too are to be servants, who are to practise the charity displayed in this act which he did for them. The Church tries to carry out this commission especially through its various charitable works serving the needy. In the Mass today the priest, imitating Jesus, washes the feet of twelve people, reminding all present that charity and service should animate all who participate in the Eucharist.
Hosts for communion on Good Friday are consecrated at this Mass and carried in a procession to what is called the Altar of Repose, where they remain until they are distributed on Good Friday. The main altar is stripped bare of cloths, candles, flowers and any other decoration. The tabernacle is left wide open and empty.
People are invited to follow the tradition of spending time this night at the Altar of Repose ‘watching with the Lord’. This practice recalls the appeal Jesus made in the Garden of Gethsemane to Peter, James and John to watch and pray with him, while he went through the agony of anticipating the sufferings he was to endure the next day.
Today’s reading from Isaiah – about the suffering servant – and the Passion narrative set the theme and atmosphere for today’s remembrance of the death of Jesus and its meaning for us. The readings and the ‘Bidding Prayers’ for various causes are followed by the veneration of the Cross, with Communion concluding the liturgy.