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What Is Holy Week?

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Holy Week is the week before Easter, a period which includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Here's what you should know about the days that commemorate the Passion of Christ: Holy Week observances likely began in Jerusalem in the earliest days of the church, though the term first appears in the writings of fourth century bishops, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, and Epiphanius, bishop of Constantia. Holy week does not include Easter Sunday. The first record of a Holy Week observance was made by Egeria, a Gallic woman who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land about 381-384. In an account of her travels she wrote for a group of women back in Spain, Egeria describes the Palm Sunday she observed in Jerusalem: . . . all the children who are [gathered at the top of the Mount of Olives], including those who are not yet able to walk because they are too young and therefore are carried on their parents' shoulders, all of them bear branches, some carrying palms, others, olive branches. And the bishop is led in the same manner as the Lord once was led. Because of the difficulty in some parts of the world of procuring palms for Palm Sunday, leaves from yew, willow, olive, or other native trees are frequently used. The Sunday was often designated by the names of these trees, as Yew Sunday, or by the general term Branch Sunday. An archaic and infrequently used name for the Wednesday before Easter is “Spy Wednesday”, named for Judas' becoming a spy for the Sanhedrin. According to the accounts in the Gospels, the Temple Guards, guided by Jesus' disciple Judas Iscariot, arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas received money (30 pieces of silver) (Matthew 26:14–16) for betraying Jesus and told the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they are to arrest. Following his arrest, Jesus was brought to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, Caiaphas. There he was interrogated with little result and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest where the Sanhedrin had assembled (John 18:1–24). Conflicting testimony against Jesus was brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answered nothing. Finally the high priest adjured Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying "I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?" Jesus testified ambiguously, "You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven." The high priest condemned Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin concurred with a sentence of death (Matthew 26:57–66). Peter, waiting in the courtyard, also denied Jesus three times to bystanders while the interrogations were proceeding just as Jesus had predicted. In the morning, the whole assembly brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (Luke 23:1–2). Pilate authorized the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own law and execute sentencing; however, the Jewish leaders replied that they were not allowed by the Romans to carry out a sentence of death (John 18:31). Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday. The term “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word mandatum (commandment). The term refers to the commandment given by Jesus at the Last Supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) Good Friday is a Christian religious holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The historical origins of the “Good” in Good Friday remain unclear, though some entomologists believe the term “good” is an archaic form of “holy.” According to Scripture, Pilate questioned Jesus and told the assembly that there was no basis for sentencing. Upon learning that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate referred the case to the ruler of Galilee, King Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questioned Jesus but received no answer; Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate told the assembly that neither he nor Herod found guilt in Jesus; Pilate resolved to have Jesus whipped and released (Luke 23:3–16). Under the guidance of the chief priests, the crowd asked for Barabbas, who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection. Pilate asked what they would have him do with Jesus, and they demanded, "Crucify him" (Mark 15:6–14). Pilate's wife had seen Jesus in a dream earlier that day, and she forewarned Pilate to "have nothing to do with this righteous man" (Matthew 27:19). Pilate had Jesus flogged and then brought him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests informed Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death "because he claimed to be God's son." This possibility filled Pilate with fear, and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know from where he came (John 19:1–9). Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declared Jesus innocent and washed his own hands in water to show he has no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (Matthew 27:24–26) and ultimately to keep his job. The sentence written was "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Jesus carried his cross to the site of execution (assisted by Simon of Cyrene), called the "place of the Skull", or "Golgotha" in Hebrew and in Latin "Calvary". There he was crucified along with two criminals (John 19:17–22). Jesus agonized on the cross for six hours. During his last three hours on the cross, from noon to 3 pm, darkness fell over the whole land.[12] Jesus spoke from the cross, saying "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" With a loud cry, Jesus gave up his spirit. There was an earthquake, tombs broke open, and the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. This tear signified a removal of restriction of the common Jews from the Temple's "Holiest of Holies", and that God's people now could, themselves, communicate directly with their advocate before God, Jesus the Christ, rather than needing the Temple's High Priest as an intercessor.[citation needed] The centurion on guard at the site of crucifixion declared, "Truly this was God's Son!" (Matthew 27:45–54) Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and secret follower of Jesus, who had not consented to his condemnation, went to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50–52). Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus brought about a hundred-pound weight mixture of spices and helped wrap the body of Jesus (John 19:39–40). Pilate asked confirmation from the centurion of whether Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44). A soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out (John 19:34), and the centurion informed Pilate that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:45). In Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, Holy Saturday commemorates the “harrowing of hell,” the time between his Crucifixion and his Resurrection when Christ is believed to have descended into hell. Some Protestants, however, don't believe that Scripture warrants believing the claim, found in the Apostle's creed, that “[Christ] descended into hell.” As John Piper says, “there is no textual basis for believing that Christ descended into hell.” Easter Sunday is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, and comes at the end of Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance. Eastertide, the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the fiftieth day, Pentecost Sunday. In Medieval Europe, Christians would abstain from eating eggs and meat during Lent. Eggs laid during that time were often boiled to preserve them and were given as Easter gifts to children and servants. Some traditions claim the Easter egg is symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus, with the shell of the egg representing the sealed Tomb and cracking the shell representing the Resurrection. Christians in the Middle East and in Greece painted eggs bright red to symbolize the blood of Christ. The term “Easter” derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “oster”, meaning “to rise” or for their term for the Spring equinox, “Eostre.”
  
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