The following Gospel accounts contain the events the Church commemorates and reflects upon during Holy Week:
• Mark 11-15
• Matthew 21-27
• Luke 19-23
• John 12-19
The last week of Lent is called Holy Week. It is the week leading to Easter Sunday. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday. Some Christians refer to it as Passion Week because of the events commemorated throughout the week. During Holy Week we commemorate, reflect and meditate upon the last week of Jesus’ ministry, most importantly the Paschal Mystery.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday the Church commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem:
SEE: Mark 11:1-11; Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19. (New American Bible)
The Paschal Triduum
Within Holy Week is the Paschal Triduum.
The Paschal Triduum consists of the last three days of Holy Week – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The USCCB calls it “the summit of the liturgical year”. Although it is composed of three days it is commemorated liturgically as one day.
A handy reference for the Triduum can be found at: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Eighteen Questions on the Paschal Triduum: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/triduum/questions-and-answers.cfm
On Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper, the remembrance of the Passover meal celebrated by Jesus and his disciples. Holy Thursday is also called Maundy Thursday. This comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning commandment. This refers to the commandment where Jesus said to be of service to others and showed us this in His washing of the feet of his disciples. It is at the Last Supper Jesus instituted the sacraments of the Eucharist & Holy Orders. After the Last Supper Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane and it is here, after His Agony in the Garden, Jesus is arrested.
On Holy Thursday the Chrism Mass occurs. This is the Mass celebrated by the bishop and priests of the diocese. This shows the unity between the bishop and the priests of the diocese. The oils used during the various sacraments throughout the liturgical year are blessed during this Mass and distributed throughout the diocese.
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which is celebrated after sundown, occurs on Holy Thursday. It commemorates the institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and it ends with the removal of the Eucharist from the tabernacle in the main body of the church. The Eucharist is carried in procession to another place where it is kept overnight to be distributed during the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. After the procession, the altar is stripped bare, and all bells in the church are silent until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil.
SEE: Mark 14:12-72; Matthew 26:10-75; Luke 22:7-62; John 13-18:27. (New American Bible)
Good Friday is the most solemn day of the liturgical year. It is so solemn a day that there is NO Mass celebrated on Good Friday. On Good Friday we commemorate the day on which Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate and crucified. It is also a day of fasting and abstinence.
Why is it “Good” Friday? Because of the effects of the events that occurred. By Jesus’ obedience to and His trust in the Father, He overcame the effects of sin of and achieved our salvation.
On Good Friday the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, once called the Mass of the Preconsecrated, occurs. It is a service that resembles the Mass but the Eucharist that was consecrated on Holy Thursday is distributed.
The Veneration of the Cross is a ceremony during which a person pays respect to the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Usually this is done during Good Friday services; usually people perform the veneration of the cross individually by coming forward and, while kneeling, kiss the foot of the cross.
Some parishes hold the evening service of Tenebrae. This is a nighttime service with readings and prayers and the slow extinguishing of candles in the Church.
SEE: Mark 15; Matthew 27; Luke 23; John 18:28-19:1-42. (New American Bible)
Holy Saturday is the final day of the Triduum and of Holy Week. It is a day of little liturgical activity, for example, there is no Mass. The sacrament of Reconciliation can be, and is usually, performed. It is a day on which we continue to reflect and meditate upon the death of Jesus and the implications that it has for us – our redemption. We continue, in a more devout and deeper way, our anticipation of the Resurrection of Jesus.
Liturgically, the Easter Vigil is part of Easter Sunday. A good reference as an overview for the Easter Vigil can be found at this link: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1043
Catholic Activity: Easter Vigil. CatholicCulture.org, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. <https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1043>
The New American Bible. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002. Web. 6 Feb.2014 <http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM>
Eighteen Questions on the Paschal Triduum. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. <http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical resources/triduum/questions-and-answers.cfm>.