As we begin Holy Week it is sad that there is such hate, racism, murder, marginalization and bigotry in the world today just as it was during the time of Christ. It seems not much has changed since the death of Christ when his innocent blood was shed. Today, the innocent blood is being shed by African Americans and other marginalized people similar to that shed by Jesus Christ. Let us hope and pray for a better, caring, equal and loving world. Great Week, Greater Week, Week of Mourning, Sacred Week, Week of Remission, Laborious Week, Week of Salvation or Holy Week is the time leading to Christ’s Passion and death. It is observed by some Christians through meditation, fasting, prayer and penance. The following describes the days leading to the Resurrection of Christ, one of the foundations of the Christian religion that confirmed that Christ was the son of God.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of lent. The use of ashes began when some Christians who performed grave faults were turned out of the church and had to perform penitence for forty days. On Ash Wednesday the penitents were sprinkled with ashes from the palms of the year before that were christened with holy water and scented with incense. They were allowed to return to church on Maundy Thursday. Ashes are placed in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of Christians today to remind them to be humble and that life passes away.
Lazarus Saturday is the day before Palm Sunday and marks the day Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus.
Palm Sunday marks the week before the resurrection of Jesus. Palm branches where laid on the ground along with robes in honor of Jesus as he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. It is sometimes called Branch or Yew Sunday or the names of other branches if Palm trees are not available.
Great and Holy Monday remembers the events that took place on the Monday before the Resurrection of Jesus. The withering of the fig tree was a symbol of judgment. The selling of Joseph into slavery by his brothers foretells of the passion of Christ.
Great and Holy Tuesday recalls the parable of Christ as bridegroom of the church and the bridal chamber being his tomb. It also refers to being saved on the Day of Judgment.
The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after Palm Sunday is characterized with what is now known as “spring cleaning” of floors, windows, mirrors, bedding all were washed and cleaned in preparation for the feast.
Holy Wednesday is said to be the day when Mary Magdalene poured nard over Jesus’ head thus anointing him with the expensive perfume from her alabaster jar. It is also known as Spy Wednesday, when Judas made a deal with the High Priest to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. In some places an effigy of Judas is thrown from a church steeple, dragged through the village while stones and sticks are thrown at it and drowned in a stream or pond.
Maundy Thursday also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great Thursday, Sheer Thursday and Thursday of Mysteries celebrates the last supper of Jesus with the Apostles. Maundy comes from the word Mandatum, the ceremony of the washing of the feet. Tenebrae a service of shadows is held on Good Friday to commemorate the passion of Christ. It is performed with readings from the Bible as candles are extinguished, ending the service in total darkness with a loud sound and the Christ candle extinguished, indicating the death of Christ. The congregation exits in near darkness and silence.
Good Friday remembers the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. Some say there was a Blood Moon or lunar eclipse which accounts for the darkness at the time of the death of Christ. Coincidently, this year there was a rare Blood Moon on April 15th just three days from Good Friday. I hope this represents great things for all.
Easter Sunday is also known as Pascha (Passover) or Resurrection Sunday and is the festival celebrating the resurrection of Christ. The date of Easter varies depending on the calendar used it could range from 20 March to 8 May. Easter or Pascha is related to Jewish Passover. The term Easter developed from the Anglo-Saxon dawn goddess Eostre where there was a festival held in her honor every year welcoming spring and rebirth.
Easter Monday is known as Bright or Renewal Monday. The day after Easter is celebrated with outdoor activities such as egg painting or rolling, processions and dousing of holy water that was blessed at the Easter service the day before.
Regardless of your religion keep in mind it is the time of change, renewal and rebirth. Enjoy the season.