This week is called Holy Week, which runs from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Those of you with Catholic friends may have questions on why certain practices are observed this week. Many may have questions about this annual commemoration and the specific details which accompany this solemn practice.
We put together a list of the seven things you need to know about Holy Week for your information and guidance.
40 days of Lent
Holy Week is the final week of the Lenten season. What is the Lenten season? Lent is the time for spiritual preparation before the celebration of Easter for many Christians, or more specifically, Catholic faithfuls. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent is often observed as a season of reflection. It commemorates the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent in the wildness to fast, pray and endure the temptations of the devil, which prepared him for his public ministry.
Time for penance
The Cambridge English dictionary defines penance as an “activity that shows you regret some previous action” and “an act that shows that you feel sorry about something that you have done.”
All Fridays of the year are days of penance, but much emphasis is placed on Holy Week as this is the time for reflection for many people. This is why Lent is often referred to as time for penance.
Think of this week as detox season, where one rids himself or herself from the toxins which inflict harm on the body. Taking this to a higher level, the Holy Week is detox for your soul.
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter. It marks the beginning of Holy Week and serves as a reminder of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. According to the Bible, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey as a large crowd gathered and waved their palm branches to acknowledge his arrival. The word hosanna has been referred to as the common exclamation during this time. They were hailing Christ as both Savior and King. Hosanna means save or rescue. These days, Palm Sunday is commemorated with the blessing of palm fronds, which symbolize the palm leaves/branches that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem.
What is fasting?
On Holy Week season, the Catholic faithfuls of this population are called to fast, just as Jesus Christ fasted in the desert.
Fasting means reducing the amount of food eaten by an individual. For instance, if a person eats three full meals a day, they are called to eat one meal a day and two smaller meals, which when put together do not exceed the main meal in quantity. Fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The obligation to fast is binding on those 18 years old to those who are not yet 60 years old.
Pope Benedict XVI explains this practice by saying that “denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”
How about abstinence?
Abstinence, on the other hand, means refraining from eating meat, such as pork, chicken and beef, and any meat-based dishes (including soups and gravies).
What can be eaten then? Fish and seafood.
The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years old of age and above to refrain from eating meat on all Fridays of Lent. This is to honor the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. The Catholic laws specifically mentioned that like fasting, abstinence from meat is required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Why was meat singled out? Because having meat in your diet is often associated with banquets, celebrations and feasts. Holy Week is not a time for celebration, but rather a time of meditation and reflection. Meat can be a luxury, which is not appropriate for a season that is considered a time for penance.
What can be eaten then? Fish such as tuna and mackerel are common substitutes. For many families, canned tuna is the most convenient meal during this season. For suggestions on tuna recipes or where to buy your tuna, click here.
Are these for real? Yes, according to the laws…
There are two documents that regulate the laws of fasting and abstinence under the Catholic Church. One is the Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini, which was implemented on February 23, 1966. The second is the Canons on the “Days of Penance” which is found in the Code of Canon Law of 1983. Under these laws, the faithful are obligated to do penance on all Fridays and during Lent. However, it is up for them to decide what form of penance to do.
Sick people and others with special needs are exempted
Fasting and abstinence are not brutal or physically harmful practices inflicted to the members of a religion. It has to be noted that sick people or those with special needs or medical conditions are exempted from observing these practices. They can substitute fasting and abstinence with other forms such as praying the Holy Rosary, going to Holy Mass, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, reading the Holy Bible or doing works/acts of charity such teaching catechism, giving alms to the poor or visiting the prisoners and the sick.
We, at Christa Tuna, hopes for a meaningful commemoration of the Holy Week. This is a solemn practice that we respect in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters. Let the Holy Week be a time for reflection, meditation and also, reconciliation. May everyone came out of it with an invigorated soul and body, and a renewed perspective on things that matter.