Anglican 101: What is Holy Week?

Holy Week is the name for the final week of Lent before Easter. It may also be called Passion (meaning suffering) Week, referring to Jesus’ betrayal, torture, and crucifixion. This year it begins on Palm Sunday, April 9 and ends on Holy Saturday, April 15. It is a significant part of the Church Year for Christians because it concludes the Lenten season of preparation for Easter with a final journey with Christ to the cross. During Holy week we retrace the events of Jesus’ week as he ultimately gives his life for us.

Palm Sunday
The week begins with a joyful celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he is greeted as king by crowds of people waving palm branches. We will also worship by singing Hosanna, which means Save us!, and include palm branches in our Sunday worship. Palm Sunday is always a bittersweet day because we know that the crowd that worshipped Jesus on Sunday will turn on him later in the week.

Holy Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday
We don’t mark particular events of Jesus’ life on Holy Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday but they are days of preparation for what comes at the end of the week. To pray and read about the events that may have come in the first part of the week, follow the Bible lectionary readings for the Daily Office. You can read the lectionary here or listen at The Trinity Mission.

Maundy Thursday
On the Thursday of Holy Week we remember the last supper that Jesus shared with his disciples in Jerusalem before he was betrayed. They gathered to celebrate the Passover and, over the course of the meal, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, institutes the Lord’s Supper or Communion, and gives them a new commandment to love one another. The name Maundy is a shortening of the Latin word mandatum from which we get the word mandate or commandment. Christians often mark this day by sharing a meal called an Agape Feast or by washing other’s feet like Christ washed his disciples’ feet.

Good Friday 
On Friday of Holy Week we follow Jesus all the way to the cross and, whenever possible, commit our day to fasting, prayer and meditation on his sacrifice. Good Friday is called good because good meant holy in Old English. We will open Slate at 4pm in the afternoon for anyone who would like to walk though a self-guided Stations of the Cross in the children’s area using art that our kids have been working on during Lent. The Stations of the Cross guide us through 14 important events in the final hours of Jesus’ life and offer a unique way to pray on Good Friday.

And at 7 pm we will gather for a worship service based on the seven last words, or sayings, of Jesus from the cross. We will sing, listen, and pray together. Nursery will be available and a special lesson for preschoolers through 2nd graders.

Holy Saturday
The final day of the week is Holy Saturday on which we remember that Jesus truly died and lay in the tomb. Churches do not celebrate communion on this day to help us reflect on a world without Jesus and the grace that he brings. You may want to spend time on Holy Saturday praying for desperate places around the world where people are suffering and do not experience the hope of Jesus.

For many Christians, Holy Week ends at sunset and Easter begins with a vigil waiting for Jesus to rise from the dead. However you mark Holy Week, make sure that you join us on Sunday morning at 10 am ready to worship our victorious Jesus!