These seven days go through the various events as Jesus made his way to the cross. Holy Week starts off with Palm Sunday and ends with Holy Saturday. The week is one of sorrow, tragedy, remembrance and even celebration.
Holy Week Explained
Palm Sunday is the first day of the Holy Week. It celebrates the day Jesus returned to Jerusalem, welcomed by crowds who laid palm leaves before him. At this time, conflict was rising in the Jews, who wanted him dead. He left for a period that evening, returning the following day to spend time with the Gentiles of the temple. Passion Sunday finds worshippers waving palm branches as they sing celebratory hymns. Typically the colors red are predominantly used in Catholic traditions to symbolize Jesus’ suffering and bloodshed. He left for Mount of Olives on Wednesday, where he would foretell the coming days to his death.
Holy Week is a privileged time when we are called to draw near to Jesus: friendship with him is shown in times of difficulty.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 30, 2015
Thursday is the day Jesus returned to Jerusalem, knowing full well he would be arrested and tried. The full events of Maundy Thursday are the Last Supper, Eucharist (or communion), Judas’ betrayal and Jesus praying in Gethsemane. However, many traditions focus on the last supper and communion to remember the day. In Christian churches, the colors royal purple or red violet are used, and many congregations simply host a pot luck dinner.
Good Friday is the day Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified and died. He was buried the same day. Traditionally, churches don’t hold communion for Good Friday. Instead, the church is blanketed in mourning black, complete with extinguished candles and black alter coverings. Everything is left this way until Easter Sunday. Certain traditions may be enacted to recreate the pain, humiliation and end that Jesus experienced on the cross. In Catholic churches, there may be a series of Scripture readings followed by a homily and meditation. Some services use paintings and hymns to tell the story. Others take part in Tenebra, an after dark service in which everyone meditates as candles are slowly put out.
Holy Saturday is the final day, when Jesus was in the tomb and before he had risen. There is often no services, scripture readings or communion on this day. It is typically a quiet meditation day for Christians to remember family and friends who have passed, as well as to mourn Jesus’ death.