The Holy Week: All you need to know about the lead-up to Easter and the ‘Good’ in Good Friday

A usual Sunday morning for most, for Christians Palm Sunday—the Sunday before Easter—marks the beginning of Holy Week, the holiest of weeks, in which the most important moments of Christ’s life take place, which include the suffering and torture He went through after His arrest, His journey while carrying the cross to Calvary where he was crucified and died, and finally His rising from the dead.Blessed palm leaves cannot be discarded as trash, so the Catholic Church incinerates them, which in turn provides the ash used to mark foreheads during the Ash Wednesday observances in the following year. The Indian Orthodox Church burns the palm leaves in a symbolic bonfire during the Christmas liturgy.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday when Christ triumphantly entered from Gailiee into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with his disciples. According to the Gospels in the Bible, He entered Jerusalem on a young donkey (signifying humility) to shouts of ‘Hosanna’ from the townspeople, who threw clothes and palm leaves along his path, and waved palm leaves as a sign of homage. The people happily welcomed him, because they believed that Christ would free them from the oppression of the Roman government at that time. Ironically, it was in Jerusalem that the Jews plotted against him and arrested him after Judas betrayed Him. On Palm Sunday, palm leaves are blessed and distributed to Christians, who then go in procession to the church waving the palm leaves.

As the blessed palm leaves cannot be discarded as trash, the Catholic Church incinerates them to create the ashes used to mark foreheads during the Ash Wednesday observances, the following year. The Indian Orthodox Church keeps the palm leaves till Christmas, when the leaves are burnt in a symbolic bonfire during the liturgy (a religious service, according to which public worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted). The bonfire symbolises the fire that the shepherds of Bethlehem made in the cave where Christ was born, while the burning of leaves symbolise the burning away of all impurities (evil/sin). The warmth of the fire symbolises the salvation, which in the Christian belief, the crucifixion made possible for mankind.

Maundy Thursday: A day of service and love (March 29)

The word ‘Maundy’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘command’ and refers to Christ’s commandment to his disciples, ‘love one another as I have loved you’. Marking the beginning of the Triduum—the three days ofMaundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday—Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper that Christ had with His apostles on the night He was betrayed by Judas for 40 pieces of silver. It was during the Last Supper that Christ instituted the Eucharist also known today as the holy mass—a Christian service, ceremony, or sacrament celebrating the Last Supper, in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed. At every Mass on Maundy Thursday, the priest washes the feet of 12 persons from the community as an act of humility and service, just as Christ washed the feet of his 12 apostles.

As Christ broke bread and shared it with his apostles at the Last Supper, the tradition of blessing and distributing hot cross buns on Maundy Thursday is followed today. The hot cross buns, which are blessed by the priest are taken home by the people to share with their families and friends either on that day or on Good Friday. It is a reminder of them sharing their lives with one another.

Understanding the ‘good’ in Good Friday (March 30)

How can a day of suffering and death be considered good? The day of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion and death has been called ‘good’, because it led to His resurrection and. The Church mourns for Christ’s death and reveres the Cross. The faithful attend the Way of the Cross (some of them live demonstrations), which dwells on Christ’s journey from His arrest to His death; the Three Hours Agony, which reflects on the last seven words (in Aramaic) of Christ as he hung from the Cross; and the Good Friday evening service, after which, the body of Christ (as a statue) is reverently brought down from the Cross and is taken to the Church in procession, where it is venerated by the faithful.