St. Joseph - St. Pius X
Catholic Parish of Leicester, MA
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday. During this one week, many biblical prophesies were fulfilled. Jesus came to earth to save humanity by dying on the cross on Good Friday and resurrecting on Easter Sunday. By enduring and defeating death sacrificially for us, He swung open the gates of heaven making a way for our sin to be forgiven and usher us into the presence of God.
Day 1: Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday; palm branches, which symbolize triumph or victory, were strewn in Jesus’ path, as He rode into the city. He rode into town on a humble donkey, fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your kings comes to you, righteous and victorious, low and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The people welcomed Him, echoing the words of Psalm 118:25-26: “Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!” more popularly recognizes as “Hosanna! Hosanna!”
The crowds welcomed him by waving palm branches in the air and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness, well-being, grandeur, steadfastness, and victory. Palm branches were regarded as tokens of joy and triumph and were customarily used on festive occasions. Kings and conquerors were welcomed with palm branches being strewn before them and waved in the air.
Today, Christian churches distribute palm branches to worshipers on Palm Sunday, which is the sixth Sunday of Lent and last Sunday before Easter. On Palm Sunday, people remember Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, praise him for the gift of salvation, and look expectantly to his second coming.
Customary Palm Sunday observances include the waving of palm branches in procession, the blessing of palms, and the making of small crosses with palm fronds.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, a solemn week focusing on the final days of Jesus Christ’s life. Holy Week culminates on Easter Sunday, the most important holiday in Christianity.
Day 2: On Monday, Jesus Clears the Temple
The following morning, Jesus returned with his disciples to Jerusalem. When Jesus arrived at the Temple, he found the courts full of corrupt money changers. He began overturning their tables and clearing the Temple, saying, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).
Day 3: On Tuesday, Jesus Goes to the Mount of Olives
At the Temple, religious leaders were upset at Jesus for establishing himself as a spiritual authority. They organized an ambush with the intent to place him under arrest. But Jesus evaded their traps and pronounced harsh judgment on them, saying:
“Blind guides!…For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness…Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” (Matthew 23:24-33)
Later that afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem. Here Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. Speaking in parables, he described to them the end times events, including His Second Coming and the final judgment.
Scripture indicates that this Tuesday was also the day Judas Iscariot negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16).
Day 4: Holy Wednesday
Just a short time previously, Jesus had revealed to the disciples, and the world, that he had power over death by raising Lazarus from the grave. After seeing this incredible miracle, many people in Bethany believed that Jesus was the Son of God and put their faith in him.
On the Wednesday before his death, Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the Leper. As he sat at the supper table with his disciples, a woman named Mary anointed Jesus’ head and feet with a costly oil of spikenard. The disciples were indignant, asking why the oil was not instead sold and the money given to the poor.
Judas Iscariot went to the Sanhedrin and offered to deliver Jesus to them in exchange for money. From this moment on, Judas sought an opportunity to betray Jesus. In reference to Judas’ intent to betray Jesus, formed on Holy Wednesday, the day is sometimes called “Spy Wednesday”. The word spy, as used in the term, means “ambush, ambuscade, snare”.
Day 5: Passover and Last Supper
Holy Week takes a somber turn on Thursday.
From Bethany, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to the Upper Room in Jerusalem to make the preparations for the Passover Feast. That evening after sunset, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as they prepared to share in the Passover. By performing this humble act of service, Jesus demonstrated by example how believers should love one another.
Then, Jesus shared the feast of Passover with his disciples. As the Lamb of God, Jesus was about to fulfill the meaning of Passover by giving his body to be broken and his blood to be shed in sacrifice, freeing us from sin and death. During this Last Supper, Jesus established the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, instructing his followers to continually remember his sacrifice by sharing in the elements of bread and wine.
Later, Jesus and the disciples left the Upper Room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in agony to God the Father. Luke’s Gospel says that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground”.
Late that evening in Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot and arrested by the Sanhedrin. Meanwhile, in the early morning hours, as Jesus’ trial was getting underway, Peter denied knowing his Master three times before the rooster crowed.
Day 6: Trial, Crucifixion, Death, and Burial on Good Friday
Good Friday is the most difficult day of Passion Week. Christ’s journey turned treacherous and acutely painful in these final hours leading to his death. According to Scripture, Judas Iscariot, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus, was overcome with remorse and hanged himself early Friday morning.
Meanwhile, Jesus endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion, one of the most horrible and disgraceful methods of capital punishment known at the time.
Before Christ was led away, soldiers spit on him, tormented and mocked him, and pierced him with a crown of thorns. Then Jesus carried his own cross to Calvary where, again, he was mocked and insulted as Roman soldiers nailed him to the wooden cross.
Jesus spoke his final statements from the cross, uttering the words “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” His last words were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
At about the ninth hour (3 p.m.), Jesus breathed his last breath and died.
Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb
Jesus, who had been taken from the cross, had been laid quickly in a borrowed tomb in accordance with Jewish law, which required the dead be buried by sundown before the Sabbath. The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day.
On Holy Saturday, we remember that Jesus was descended into hell where He preached the Gospel to those who died before and opened the way to heaven for all those who were worthy. In our churches, the Tabernacle is left empty, to show that Christ is departed.
This concludes Holy Week. The following day is Easter Sunday, the day on which it was discovered the Tomb was empty, and our Lord was resurrected, triumphing over death once and for all time.
Based on direct evidence from the mid-second century, it is believed that Easter was regularly celebrated from the earliest days of the Church. The Easter date is movable and always falls on a Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th. Easter in the Catholic Church is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.
Marking the climax of Holy Week and the beginning of the Easter Season of the liturgical year, Easter is the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Easter is characterized, above all, by the joy of glorified life and the victory over death, expressed most fully in the great resounding cry of the Christian: Alleluia! All faith flows from faith in the resurrection.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day following his crucifixion. His Resurrection marks the triumph of good over evil, sin and death. It is the singular event which proves that those who trust in God and accept Christ will be raised from the dead.
The Resurrection is the climax of the Incarnation. It confirms the divinity of Christ and all things which he did and taught. It fulfills all the divine promises made for us. Furthermore, the risen Christ, the conqueror of sin and death, is the principle of our justitification and our Resurrection. It procures for us now the grace of filial adoption which is real share in the life of the only begotten Son. At the end of time, he will raise up our bodies.
-Compendium, Catechism of the Catholic Church