This week is Holy Week in the Christian Calendar

Beginning yesterday with Palm Sunday celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem, events on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will complete the narrative. Many churches celebrated Palm Sunday with a procession and with palms. Traditionally as well, these palms are supposed to be burned, and those ashes become the ashes used during the following year’s Ash Wednesday service. Key texts from the New Testament: Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12.

Thursday night is “Maundy Thursday.” Maundy, coming from the Latin mandatum meaning “command,” (English words like “mandate” and “mandatory” come from the same root), is the night Jesus celebrated what Christians call the “Last Supper,” the source of contemporary Christian communion rituals. In Jesus’ Jewish context, he was celebrating the Passover meal. Interestingly, one Gospel, the Gospel of John, has a last supper, but does not have Jesus instituting the ritualized language of communion. Instead, he performs a foot-washing and also gives the disciples a new commandment: that they “love one another” (John 13:34). That’s the new mandatum. Key texts: Matthew 26: 17-30, Mark 14: 12-26, Luke 22: 7-39, and John 13.

Friday is Good Friday, and is the day Jesus was crucified. Many Christian traditions have a service, ranging from very short to hours-long, re-telling the narrative of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and death. This narrative has also been set to music many times over the centuries. Key texts: Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19.

Saturday is Holy Saturday. Many churches often have a late night “Easter Vigil” that carries from Saturday into Sunday, and thus people are there to celebrate Easter as Saturday turns to Sunday. In the early church, this was the only day of the year baptisms were performed.

Sunday is Easter, the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Key texts: Matthew 28, Mark 16 (note both the shorter and longer endings), Luke 24, John 20.

Note that each Gospel account has a great deal in common, but also contain key narrative and theological differences that have been the source of study for centuries.

The Rev. Greg Han
Director of Interfaith Relations
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston