The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
Holy Week is a long journey through various stages. All these steps are meant for study and understanding of the events that led to the execution of Jesus, and each stage bears a symbolic meaning with a certain phase of the life of Christ.
Let us start with the stage that lies at the gateway. Ash Wednesday is where the journey begins. The Ash opens the gate to the Lent, the event Holy week itself follows as a journey of penance through Lent.
Lent is a forty day period of penance meant for sharing the sorrows and sufferings of Christ. Originally Lent was meant for a period of complete fasting to commemorate the forty-day fast of Jesus. Jesus spent these days in the desert after his baptism and till the beginning of his public ministry. In the early church, this fasting period was meant for a preparation to receive the sacrament to be given to those who would be baptized on the eve of Easter.
In course of time, the emphasis of the season turned from preparing for baptism to more penitential aspects. Even persons guilty of notorious sins spent their time performing public penances. Only at the end of the Lent were they publicly accepted back in an elaborate ceremony. The penitents were presented to the bishop singly. And then in a group they protested themselves while seven penitential psalms were sung.
The last Sunday of the Lent is known as the Palm Sunday. This is when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem where he was greeted warmly by the crowd. In the words of St Matthew:
"Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And this is where the basis of the Palm Sunday procession lies.
The first reference to the Palm Sunday procession, is found in the travel journal of Etheria, the nun from the northwest Spain. She made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century. She referred the day to be the beginning of the Paschal Week.
The Holy Monday & Tuesday:
Monday of the Holy Week is not a major feast. The cleansing of the temple in the Holy City of Jerusalem is thought to have taken place on this Monday. This was when Jesus freed the animals to be slaughtered and overturned the tables of the moneychangers, saying to them: " It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; But you make it a den of robbers". [Matthew: 21:13]
The Tuesday of the Holy Week is the day when the famous incident between Jesus and Pharisees is thought to have taken place. This was when the churchmen tried to trap Jesus into making a blasphemous, or, anti-god remark. This day is important also on another count. Jesus discoursed to his disciples on the Mount of Olives about the destruction of Jerusalem and the signs of the last day.
On the Wednesday the tempo of the Holy Week increases. This is the day widely known as "Spy Wednesday". For it is the day when Judas Iscariot, a disciple turned betrayer agreed to show the chief priests where they could easily capture Jesus.
The Thursday of the Holy Week is associated with the Last Supper. The day is known as Maundy Thursday, or, Holy Thursday. It is the day before the crucifixion. On this day Jesus had his supper, his last course, with his disciples.
The Friday of the week is the Good Friday. This is the day on which Jesus was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, at the top of the Calvary hill.
This day is marked by solemn observations in memory of Jesus' crucifixion.
Roman Catholics observe the day usually through fast and abstinence to commemorate the pains and sufferings Jesus underwent on the cross. It is since the 4th century that Good Friday came to be observed as a separate occasion. Before this, an annual celebration was held as Christian Passover, or, Pascha, to mark both Christ's death on Cross and the Resurrection.
Saturday Easter Eve; Black Sabbath
The day following Good Friday is the Holy Saturday. This is usually called Easter Eve in Anglican churches, and is held as a traditional time for baptism services.
Presently, this day is primarily a Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, as well as Anglican observance. Roman Catholic churches observe this with the blessing and lighting of a tall Paschal candle. The candle is placed on the altar on the Holy Saturday. While blessing, five grains of incense are fixed in it, representing the five wounds of Jesus and the burial spices with which his body was anointed. The candle is lit and remains on the Gospel side of the altar until Ascension Day. This day comes at the end of forty days which mark the period through which Christ showed up himself of and on following the crucifixion. On Ascension Day Christ is believed to have ascended to the heaven.
Easter Sunday is the day of the feast. This day, the third since the crucifixion, is where Christ is believed to have shown himself to His beloved Mary Magdalene. Jesus then also joined his other disciples for a meal. Easter comes at the end of the six days of the Holy Week which came to be associated with the life of Jesus before the Resurrection.
This day is when Christ is believed to have shown himself after his death through crucifixion. He had risen up from his tomb that was guarded by the sentries, and met his disciples to get them prepared to continue his works in his absence.
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