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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Holy Week

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The last week of Lent (q.v.), i.e. the week before Easter, and specially devoted to commemorating the sufferings and death of Christ. In English use, it is also called Passion Week (a name appropriated, in Roman use, to the week before Palm Sunday). This institution is of very early origin, and was "formerly called the Great Week,' and in medieval times the Authentic,' with the same meaning; in Germany and Denmark, the popular title is Still Week,' in allusion to the holy quiet and abstraction from labor during its continuance." In the Roman Catholic Church, the special characteristics of the celebration of the Holy Week are increased solemnity and gloom, penitential rigor, and mourning. If any of the ordinary Church festivals fall therein, they are transferred till after Easter. All instrumental music is suspended in the churches, the altars are stripped of their ornaments, the pictures and statues are veiled from public sight, manual labor is voluntarily suspended, the rigor of fasting is redoubled, and alms- deeds and other works of mercy and sedulously enjoined and practiced. The days specially solemnized are Palm Sunday, Spy Wednesday, Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday (q.v.), Holy Saturday. Holy Thursday (q.v.), in the Roman Catholic Church, is specially designed as a commemoration of the Last Supper, and of the institution of the Eucharist. Besides these services, there are still others annexed to the day, as the solemn consecration of the oil or chrism (q.v.) used in baptism, confirmation, orders, and extreme unction, the washing of pilgrims' feet, and the chanting of the Tenebrae (darkness), consisting of the matins and lauds for the following mornings, which it is customary to recite at night. "During the service, a large candlestick, supporting fifteen lights, arranged in the form of a triangle, which denote Christ and the prophets who predicted his coming, stands in the sanctuary; the lights are one by one extinguished until only the upper one remains, which is taken down and placed under the altar until the close of the office, and then brought back; this symbolizes Christ's burial and resurrection." On Holy Saturday follow the solemn blessing of fire and the water of the baptismal font; the baptism of catechumens, and the ordination of candidates for the ministry. From the fire solemnly blessed on this day is lighted the Paschal Light, which is regarded as a symbol of Christ risen from the dead. This symbolical light is kept burning during the reading of the gospel at Mass throughout the interval between Easter and Pentecost. Wetzer, Welte, Kirchen-Lex. vol. 2, art. Charwoche; Procter, Cornm. Prayer, p. 279 sq.; Guericke, Antiquities, p. 144 sq.; Chambers, Cyclop. 5, 394; Walcott, Sacred Archeology, p. 315; Appleton, Amer. Cyclop. 9, 240, 241. (See PASSION).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Holy Week'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/h/holy-week.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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