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Holy Week
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Holy Week


Holy Week is the Christian week from Holy Monday through Easter (Resurrection) Sunday.

Each of the days of Holy Week has its own traditions of services in the West. Believers are encouraged to follow in their prayers with readings from the Gospel the account of each of the actions from the time of the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the crucifixion and death of Jesus on Good Friday and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. While each day has special mass celebrations in the Western churches, the week's most elaborate services are on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter. In the Reformation, emphasis was taken away from the Passion and placed upon the resurrection of Jesus, but contemporary Protestant Churches, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, holds the three days between Good Friday and Easter to be the holiest days of the calendar.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity

In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Great Lent officially ends on Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, a week before Pascha (Easter). During Holy Week, Orthros (Matins) services for each day are held the preceding evening. Thus, the Matins service of Monday is sung Palm Sunday evening, and so on. (The services of Sunday through Tuesday evenings are often called Bridegroom Matins, because of their theme of Christ-as-Bridegroom.)

Divine Liturgy of the Last Supper is held on the morning of Holy Thursday. Matins of Holy Friday, with its Twelve Gospel Readings, is held on the evening of Holy Thursday; Matins of Holy Saturday is held on the evening of Holy Friday. A richly-embroidered sheet called the "epitaphios" representing Christ laid in the tomb is carried in a candlelit procession and laid in a "tomb" decorated with flowers.

Divine Liturgy is held Saturday morning. This is the "Proti Anastasi" (First Resurrection) service, with a change from dark vestments to light ones.

Saturday night at midnight, the service begins in darkness. A single candle is lighted by the priest, from a light on the altar which is never extinguished. The light spreads from person to person until everyone holds a lighted candle. The Divine Liturgy follows. A reception or party usually follows, sometimes lasting till dawn. Slavs bring Easter baskets filled with eggs, meat, butter, and cheese -- foods from which the faithful have abstained during Lent -- to be blessed.

A Vesper service, often combined with an Easter egg hunt and other activities for children, may be held Easter day, but there is no regular Sunday morning Liturgy.

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