Holy Week is the interval between Palm Sunday and Easter Day that commemorates the last week of Our Lord’s mortal life, singular for the fullness, majesty, and devotion of its ceremonies. From apostolic days special care has been taken to celebrate the central mysteries of our Redemption during this time. This year Holy Week is April 14-20.
Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which is a celebration of our Lord’s triumphal entry into His holy city of Jerusalem as Lord, Messiah, and King while the crowds shouted praises and waved palm branches, shouting Hosanna! (meaning “glory and praise”). The Celebrant in red cope - the color of royal triumph - with his ministers also vested in red, blesses the palm leaves on this day. The palms represent the triumph over the prince of death. The blessing includes the reading of St. Matthew’s Gospel account of how our Lord rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and how people placed palms on the ground before him. The blessing is followed by a solemn procession into the church, with the faithful holding the blessed palms to render Christ the King public witness of their love and gratitude.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Holy Week
The liturgical color is violet for these days.
• On Monday the Gospel reading is from St. John, where St. Mary Magdalene anoints our Lord’s feet with precious spikenard.
• On Tuesday the Gospel reading is St. Mark’s account of the Passion.
• On Wednesday the Gospel reading is St. Luke’s account of the Passion.
The liturgical color for this day is white, and the Mass is one of joy and thanksgiving as we commemorate the institution of the most Holy Eucharist in the Last Supper of our Lord with the Apostles. After the sermon the Maundy ceremony takes place, in which the priest girds himself with a cloth after the example of our Lord and washes the feet of twelve men. An extra ciborium is consecrated for the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday. After the Mass the ciborium is borne to the altar of repose in solemn procession while the Pange Lingua is sung. After the evening Mass the altar is stripped to show that the holy Sacrifice is interrupted and will not be offered until Holy Saturday is ending.
On this day the Passion of our Lord found in St. John’s Gospel is solemnly chanted. Good Friday is an obligatory day of fast and abstinence, and the liturgical color is black. The ceremonies include readings from the Scriptures, the Great Intercession - prayers for the needs of the whole Church - and the unveiling and adoration of the holy Cross. The ceremony concludes with Communion. The altar remains bare, without altar linens, candlesticks, or crucifix.
Holy Saturday is liturgically a day of deepest mourning, a day which the Church spends at our Lord’s sepulcher, meditation on His sacred passion and death. There is no Mass; the sacred altar is bare.
On this day is observed the ceremony of Tenebrae, a word from the Latin that means darkness. In this service, all of the candles on the altar table are gradually extinguished until the sanctuary is completely dark, at which moment a loud clash occurs that symbolizes the earthquake that followed the death of Jesus: "And, behold, the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.”
The Solemn Easter Vigil service at night shows liturgically how life and grace flow to us from our Lord. The ceremony begins with the blessing of the new fire, followed by the blessing of the Paschal Candle, which represents our Lord Himself who dispelled the night of sin by the light of His grace. Then follows the procession and the Exultet, in which the Risen Christ is honored. Readings from the ancient prophecies tell of God’s wonderful dealings with His people under the Old Covenant. Next the waters of Baptism are blessed, after which our baptismal promises are renewed. After this, the Vigil Mass of the Resurrection is offered.