Holy Week, in the Christian year, in the week immediately before Easter. It was in the Apostolical Constitutions that the earlier allusion to the custom of marking this week as a whole with special observances was found. It dates back to about the latter half of the 3rd or 4th century.
In the Apostolical Constitutions, it was described as abstinence from flesh is commanded for all the days, while for the Friday and Saturday an absolute fast is commanded.
Today, in the Western Christian Church, the liturgies used for Holy week are identical.
Holy Week, as it is practiced in the modern age, begins with Palm Sunday. In other cultures, it may also be called Passion Sunday. By tradition, Palm Sunday celebrates the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem which was noted by the crowds present who shouted praises and waived palm branches. In several liturgical denominations, to commemorate the Messiah’s entry into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery, it was customary to have a blessing of palm leaves.
The blessing ceremony includes the reading of a Gospel account of how Jesus rode into Jerusalem humbly upon the back of a donkey–reminiscent of a Davidic victory procession–and how people placed palms on the ground in front of him. What follows is a procession or solemn entrance into the church, where the participants hold the blessed branches in their hands. The mass of worship itself includes a reading of the Passion.
It isn’t clear as to what is celebrated on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday as it differs from denomination to denomination. What is similar is the celebration of Maundy Thursday.
On the Thursday of Holy Week, the commemoration of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ is done. This was the even where Jesus Christ established the sacrament of Holy Communion prior to his arrest and crucifixion. This event also commemorates his institution of the priesthood.
It was widely thought that Jesus celebrated the dinner as a Passover feast. Christ would fulfill his role as the Christian victim of the Passover for all to be saved by his final sacrifice. The central observance of Holy Thursday is the ritual reenactment of the Last Supper at Mass. This event is celebrated at every Mass, as party of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but is it specially commemorated on Holy Thursday.
Also done on this day is a Chrism Mass wherein the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism and Confirmation.
As for Good Friday, it is the day wherein Catholics commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Catholics are joined by almost all other Christians in solemn remembrance of this day. The events of Jesus’s betrayal by Judas and his trials are remembered on this day.
The events of Good Friday are commemorated in the Stations of the Cross, a 14-step devotion often performed by Catholics during Lent and especially on Good Friday. The Stations of the Cross are commonly recited on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. Another devotional, the Acts of Reparation, may also be prayed during this time.
Good Friday is a day of fasting within the Church and Catholic community. Traditionally, there is no Mass and no celebration of the Eucharist on Good Friday. The muted solemnity is kept until Sunday.
Easter Sunday is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from death. It is celebrated on Sunday and marks the end of Holy Week. It is also considered to be the beginning of the Easter season of the liturgical year.
Since Easter represents the fulfillment of God’s promises to mankind, it is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar.
In the Gospels, the precise details of the Easter narrative vary slightly, but none of these variances are critical to the main story. In fact, it is argued that the variances are simply matters of style and not substance. Despite the variances, the key aspects of the Easter story all match. Above all, they agree that the tomb of Christ was indeed empty, which is the most essential fact.
Most Catholics attend Easter Vigil at midnight, although the services can be lengthy because many sacraments are performed, such as baptisms and Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, during the Mass. Services during the daytime on Easter are shorter and well attended.
Following Easter Sunday, the season of Easter begins and lasts for seven weeks, ending with Pentecost.