For the 1958 novel of the same name by Louis Aragon, see La Semaine Sainte.
Holy Week (Latin: Hebdomada Sancta or Maior Hebdomada, "Greater Week") in Christianity is the last week before Easter. It includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and Good Friday, and lasts from Palm Sunday (or in the East, Lazarus Saturday) until but not including Easter Sunday, as Easter Sunday is the first day of the new season of The Great Fifty Days. It commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
* 1 History
* 2 Holy Week in Eastern Christianity
o 2.1 The Byzantine Rite
* 3 Holy Week in the Western Church
o 3.1 Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday)
o 3.2 Monday to Wednesday
o 3.3 Tenebrae
o 3.4 Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday)
o 3.5 Good Friday
o 3.6 Holy Saturday
o 3.7 Easter Vigil
o 3.8 Easter Sunday
* 4 Holy Week in Spain
o 4.1 Seville, Spain
o 4.2 Málaga, Spain
o 4.3 León, Spain
o 4.4 Other Holy Week Cities in Spain
o 4.5 Linares, Spain
+ 4.5.1 Castile and Leon
+ 4.5.2 Castile-La Mancha
+ 4.5.3 Andalusia
* 5 Holy Week in the Philippines
* 6 Other countries
Holy Week in Eastern Christianity
The Byzantine Rite
In Eastern Orthodox Churches and Greek Catholic Churches, Holy Week is referred to as "Great and Holy Week". Orthros (Matins) services for each day are held on the preceding evening. Thus, the Matins service of Great Monday is sung on Palm Sunday evening, and so on. This permits more of the faithful to attend, and shows that during Holy Week the times are out of joint—Matins ends up being served in the evening, and in some places Vespers is served in the morning.
Fasting during Great and Holy Week is very strict. Dairy products, meat and meat products are strictly forbidden. On most days, no alcoholic beverages are permitted and no oil is used in the cooking. Friday and Saturday are observed as strict fast days, meaning that nothing should be eaten on those days. However, fasting is always adjusted to the needs of the individual, and those who are very young, ill or elderly are not expected to fast as strictly. Those who are able to, may receive the blessing of their spiritual father to observe an even stricter fast, whereby they eat only two meals that week: one on Wednesday night and one after Divine Liturgy on Thursday.
The services of Sunday through Tuesday evenings are often called "Bridegroom Prayer", because of their theme of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, a theme movingly expressed in the troparion that is solemnly chanted during them. On these days, an icon of the "Bridegroom" is placed on an analogion in the center of the temple, portraying Jesus wearing the purple robe of mockery and crowned with a crown of thorns (see Instruments of the Passion).
Towards the end of the Tuesday evening Bridegroom service, the Hymn of Kassiani is sung. The hymn, (written in the 9th century by Kassiani the Nun) tells of the woman who washed Christ's feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. (Luke 7:36-50) Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:
O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gathers into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself from in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."
The Byzantine musical composition expresses the poetry so strongly that it leaves many people in a state of prayerful tears. The Hymn can last upwards of 25 minutes and is liturgically and musically a highpoint of the entire year.
On Great and Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated, at which the faithful may receive Holy Communion from the reserved Holy Mysteries. This service combines Vespers with a Communion Service. Each of these services has a reading from the Gospel which sets forth the theme for the day.
In many churches, especially Greek Orthodox, a service of Anointing (Holy Unction) is held on Wednesday evening.
Orthodox icon of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles (16th century, Pskov school of iconography).
Divine Liturgy of the Last Supper is held on the morning of Great and Holy Thursday. Matins of Great and Holy Friday, with its Twelve Gospel Readings, is held on the evening of Holy Thursday; Vespers of Holy Friday (Vespers of the Unnailing) is held in the morning or afternoon of Holy Friday. The figure of Christ is taken down from the Cross, and a richly-embroidered icon on the cloth called the epitaphios representing Christ laid in a "Tomb" decorated with flowers. Matins of Great and Holy Saturday is held on the evening of Holy Friday; the tomb is sprinkled with rose petals and rose water, and then carried in a candlelit procession, while a set of hymns called "The Lamentations" is being sung.
Vespers joined to the Divine Liturgy is served on Great and Holy Saturday morning. This is the Proti Anastasi (First Resurrection) service, with Just before the reading of the Gospel, the hangings and vestments and changed from dark lenten colors to white.
On Saturday night, the service begins in darkness with the chanting of the Midnight Office. Afterwards, all remain in silence and darkness until the stroke of midnight. Then, the priest lights a single candle from the eternal flame on the altar (which is never extinguished). The light is spread from person to person until everyone holds a lighted candle. Then a procession takes place circling around the outside of the church, recreating the journey of the Myrrh Bearers as they journeyed to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning. The procession stops in front of the closed doors of the church. The opening of these doors symbolized the "rolling away of the stone" from the tomb by the angel, and all enter the church joyfully singing the Troparion of Pascha. Paschal Orthros begins with an Ektenia (litany) and the chanting of the Paschal Canon. One of the highpoints is the sharing of the paschal kiss and the reading of the Hieratikon (Catechetical Homily of John Chrysostom) by the priest. The Divine Liturgy follows, and every Orthodox Christian is encouraged to confess and receive Holy Communion on this holiest day of the year. A breakfast usually follows, sometimes lasting till dawn. Slavs bring Easter baskets filled with eggs, meat, butter, and cheese -- foods from which the faithful have abstained during Great Lent -- to be blessed by the priest which are then taken back home to be shared by family and friends with joy.
On the afternoon of Easter Day, a joyful service called "Agape Vespers" is celebrated During this service the Great Prokeimenon is chanted and a lesson from the Gospel (John 20:19-25) is read in as many different languages as possible, accompanied by the joyful ringing of bells. It may be combined with an Easter egg hunt or other activities for children.