Holy Week is an important time for Christians throughout the world. But not everyone knows every detail about why it's celebrated or what exactly it's composed of. So here are the answers to questions about Holy Week.
Holy Week is a time when Catholics gather to remember and participate in the Passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Passion was the final period of Christ's life in Jerusalem. It spans from when He visited Jerusalem to when He was crucified.
There are four special celebrations during Holy Week.
Palm Sunday recalls Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem. Parishioners typically form a procession and carry palms.
Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus, when he took the bread and said: this is my body; he took also the cup with wine and said: this is my blood. We Christians repeat this action of Jesus when we celebrate the mass. The washing of the feet takes place during this same Mass.
In the morning, bishops gather with priests from their diocese for the Chrism Mass. They bless holy oils during the Mass.
Good Friday is one of most sacred days of the year for Catholics. It covers Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and burial. There is no Mass.
Holy Saturday remembers the day which Jesus spent in the grave resting. There are no celebrations at all, but it leads to the Easter Vigil that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus early on Sunday morning.
On Good Friday and Holy Saturday, noticeable changes to take place in the way churches are decorated. Many churches cover decorations in purple or black, or simply remove the decor. In Italy, crosses are covered a week before. Holy water and the Eucharist are also taken from churches on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Holy Week celebrations have existed since the beginnings of the Church. As early as the 4th century, reports existed of Christians in Egypt, Palestine, and present-day Turkey and Armenia reenacting the Passion. It's likely that the celebrations took place for years before the initial recorded reports. Holy Week celebrations spread to Europe by the 5th century.
Holy Week is the week that leads to Easter. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Easter. This year, Holy Week takes place from March 29 to April 5. Easter takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21. This year, it is on April 5.