The week before Easter, known as Holy Week, is special in the Christian tradition. The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday and the last three days Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday (sometimes referred to as Silent Saturday).
The origins of Holy week began in Jerusalem around the 4th century AD. Christians from around the known world came on pilgrimages to Jerusalem to participate in acts of worship designed to reenact the final events of Christ’s life.
Over the years the rites and customs of these events were added to the most notable of which was the inclusion of the Eucharist commemorating Jesus’s last supper.
The day on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem surrounded by applauding, excited crowds who thought he was the Messiah, the new king who would challenge Rome and usher in a new age. On the opposite side of Jerusalem Herod was riding in as would have been his custom, to be at the centre of things, for an important Jewish Festival (Passover), resplendent in dress, with troops and flag bearers.
Cleansing the Temple – Jesus action of turning over the money changers tables etc was an act against dominating and evil authority. Sacrifices of birds and animals were part of Jewish worship – but law required they be “clean”, thus had to be purchased within the Temple complex – the Temple authorities imposing huge taxes.
Maundy from Latin maundatum – commandment. From Jesus’ words after washing the disciples’ feet – “A new commandment I give you…” (John 31:34-35) during the Last Supper – probably a Passover meal
Good Friday, “good” meaning “observed as holy by the church”
The day during which Jesus is on trial, ridiculed, condemned to die, taken out to Golgotha, nailed to a cross between two criminals, suffers appalling humiliation and pain and dies. The activities of his suffering and death occur through three-hour periods, the hours of the military Watches – 3am, 6am, 9am and noon. Mark’s Gospel (the earliest) places the mock trial and Peter’s denial in the first 3-6am “cockcrow”. Jesus is crucified in “the third hour” 9am, in the 6th hour (midday) a darkness covers the earth and lasts for 3 hours – Jesus utters his last words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34; Ps 22:1) and dies. During the last watch of the vigil – 3 – 6pm Jesus is buried.
Easter Day – observed between March 22 and April 25th. The day of resurrection. Until the 15th century it was called “God’s Sunday”. Eggs are a symbol, in the church, of resurrection/ a pagan symbol of fertility.