holy week

Eto na po ang huling week ng Lent Season. It is observed in many Christian churches as a time to commemorate and enact the suffering (Passion) and death of Jesus through various observances and services of worship. In Catholic tradition, the conclusion to the week is called the Easter or Pasko ng Pagkabuhay.

Palm Sunday This Sunday observes the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that was marked by the crowds, who were in Jerusalem for Passover, waving palm branches and proclaiming him as the messianic king. This Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday to commemorate the beginning of Holy Week and Jesus’ final agonizing journey to the cross.

Thursday of Holy Week is remembered as the time Jesus ate a final meal together with the men who had followed him for so long. We do not have to solve these historical questions to remember and celebrate in worship what Jesus did and taught and modeled for us here, what God was doing in Jesus the Christ. And the questions should not shift our attention from the real focus of the story: the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In some church traditions all of the altar coverings and decorations are removed after the Eucharist is served on Maundy Thursday. Since the altar in these traditions symbolize the Christ, the “stripping of the altar” symbolizes the abandonment of Jesus by his disciples and the stripping of Jesus by the soldiers prior to his crucifixion.  This, like the darkness often incorporated into a Good Friday service, represents the humiliation of Jesus and the consequences of sin as a preparation for the celebration of new life and hope that is to come on Resurrection Day.  Some churches only leave the altar bare until the Good Friday Service, when the normal coverings are replaced with black.

Friday of Holy Week has been traditionally been called Good Friday or Holy Friday. On this day, the church commemorates Jesus’ arrest (since by Jewish customs of counting days from sundown to sundown it was already Friday), his trial, crucifixion and suffering, death, and burial. Since services on this day are to observe Jesus’ death, and since Eucharist is a celebration, there is traditionally no Communion observed on Good Friday. Also, depending on how the services are conducted on this day, all pictures, statutes, and the cross are covered in mourning black, the chancel and altar coverings are replaced with black, and altar candles are extinguished.  They are left this way through Saturday, but are always replaced with white before sunrise on Sunday.
The traditional Catholic service for Good Friday was held in mid-afternoon to correspond to the final words of Jesus from the cross (around 3 PM, Matt 27:46-50). However, modern schedules have led many churches to move the service to the evening to allow more people to participate. Usually, a Good Friday service is a series of Scripture readings, a short homily, and a time of meditation and prayer.  One traditional use of Scripture is to base the homily or devotional on the Seven Last Words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel traditions.

Father, forgive them . . . (Luke 23:34)
This day you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
Woman, behold your son . . .(John 19:26-27)
My God, my God . . . (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
I thirst.  (John 19:28)
It is finished! (John 19:30)
Father into your hands . . . (Luke 23:46)

Holy Saturday This is the seventh day of the week, the day Jesus rested in the tomb. In the first three Gospel accounts this was the Jewish Sabbath, which provided appropriate symbolism of the seventh day rest. While some church traditions continue daily services on Saturday, there is no communion served on this day.

Some traditions suspend services and Scripture readings during the day on Saturday, to be resumed at the Easter Vigil after sundown Saturday. It is traditionally a day of quiet meditation as Christians contemplate the darkness of a world without a future and without hope apart from God and his grace.

It is also a time to remember family and the faithful who have died as we await the resurrection, or to honor the martyrs who have given their lives for the cause of Christ in the world.  While Good Friday is a traditional day of fasting, some also fast on Saturday as the climax of the season of Lent.  An ancient tradition dating to the first centuries of the church calls for no food of any kind to be eaten on Holy Saturday, or for 40 hours before sunrise on Sunday.  However it is observed, Holy Saturday has traditionally been a time of reflection and waiting, the time of weeping that lasts for the night while awaiting the joy that comes in the morning (Psa 30:5).

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-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2008, Dennis Bratcher – All Rights Reserved
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