All About Holy Week
Holy Week Definition and Summary
Holy Week, which falls in either late March or early April, includes the final week of Lent and part of the Paschal Triduum. Holy Week runs from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday, and includes the major holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
Prayer: Holy Week Prayer
Basic Facts About Holy Week
Liturgical Color(s): Violet (Purple); various
Type of Holiday: Fast
Time of Year: The last Week of Lent before Easter Sunday
Duration: Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday
Celebrates/Symbolizes: Various final events of Jesus' life
Alternate Names: hebdomada major
Scriptural References: Matthew 21, 26-27; Mark 11, 14-15; Luke 19:28-39, Luke 22-23; John 13, John 16-19
Holy Week is the last week of Lent before Easter. It begins on Palm Sunday, and ends on Holy Saturday. In older nomenclature, Holy Week is the second Sunday of Passiontide (Passiontide begins on the fifth Sunday of Lent). Holy Week is the section of the Church Year where Jesus' final moments are commemorated. The final three days of Holy Week (Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday) are part of the Paschal Triduum. Holy Week consists of the following events, which have their own pages. To get more details, click on the specific links:
Palm Sunday: On the sixth Sunday of Lent we commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Worship services include blessing of the palms and a procession. The liturgical color is red. Also known as "Fig Sunday."
Spy Wednesday: This is an old and uncommon name for the Wednesday of Holy Week, which commemorates Judas' agreement to betray Jesus (see Matthew 26:3-5, 14-16).
Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday): The name "Maundy Thursday" is derived from Jesus' "mandate" to love one another as He loves us. This day celebrates the institution of the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Ordination. Also known as "Shear Thursday."
Good Friday of the Lord's Passion: A fast day of the Church commemorating Jesus' crucifixion and death. Worship customs include Veneration of the Cross, communion from the reserved Maundy Thursday host, and the singing or preaching of the Passion (reading or singing excerpts of the Passion story from John's Gospel). In the Catholic Church, the liturgical color was formerly black, but is now red.
Holy Saturday: This is the final day of Holy Week. There are few specific customs associated with Holy Saturday, except that it is the final night before the Feast of the Resurrection, which begins at the Great Easter Vigil.
Other customs and events, including Tenebrae, have developed as Holy Week customs. Holy Week is generally a busy time for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as we build up to the Queen of all Church Feasts, Easter.
Holy Week, i.e. the series of pre-Easter festivities commemorating various events of the final days of Christ's life, probably developed fourth century Jerusalem, possibly beginning with Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. Christians from all over the world would make pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and the Church of Jerusalem provided rites and worship dedicated to reenacting the final events of Christ's life. The first account we have of such rites is the diary of the pilgrimage of Egeria to Jerusalem around AD 381. Gradually many of these customs and holy days spread to the wider Christian world. For more history, please see our more detailed individual pages linked above.
Worship And Prayer Resources
Seven Penitential Psalms (in English)
Seven Penitential Psalms (in Latin)