The following Holy Week guide for Liturgical Ministers is by Br. Paschal Jordan OSB, reprinted, with thanks, from 'The Catholic Standard, Guyana'.


The Season of Lent closes with Holy Week. Holy Week is the full history of God’s love for us distilled into seven days. It is the Exodus, Sinai, Golgotha – Resurrection! It is peopled by Abraham, Isaiah, Paul, Peter - Jesus! It is filled with smoke, water, fire, slavery, bread, wine, blood, covenant – deliverance!

Holy Week is the Church’s most teachable moment. The full Liturgy of Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is a careful instruction, But it is more than instruction. It is an EVENT – the event of all human history. Whatever there is to learn about being Christian is condensed into this event, Everyone is involved; everyone is a participant.

During Lent we prepare for the journey into life. Now it begins! And if we are to participate fully, we must begin to understand the signs, moods, prophecies, silences…
[Taken from Introduction to Holy Week, Religious Education Department, Georgetown, Guyana. February 1992.]



The ceremonies of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil are not so much an imitation of the events of the last days of Jesus, as a liturgical action which opens out to the Easter Celebration, a profession of faith which is acted out. We need al- ways to keep in mind the overriding Easter significance of these days.

What follows are notes addressed especially to Sacristans, Altar Servers, Music Ministers, Readers Lay Ministers and all who have a role or exercise a ministry during these days.

The Great Week, from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday focuses directly on the sufferings and death of Jesus. Jesus goes up to Jerusalem to suffer and to die; we accompany him in the Liturgy. This is the week of the Paschal Mystery – the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Sunday: This is the Day of the Triumphal Entry and the Passion. The per- son of Jesus faces us directly. Amidst superficial acclaim and mockery of the people, the dignified and serene Christ rides a donkey and expresses the kind of kingship he envisages: that of service! Liturgical Colour: RED.

Monday: Meditation on the Suffering Servant. Remember the text from Hebrews 12: ‘Let us not lose sight of Jesus…’ Jesus is anointed at Bethany. Liturgical Colour: PURPLE.

Tuesday: Betrayal Tuesday! Jesus is betrayed by Judas. “False witnesses  rise against me / breathing out fury…” Liturgical Colour: PURPLE.

Wednesday: Spy Wednesday! The Son of Man is betrayed, but woe to  him who betrays him! The Gospel of Matthew tells of 30 pieces of  silver  and the hand dipped in the dish. Liturgical Colour: PURPLE.

Thursday: The beginning of the Triduum Sacrum or Three Holy Days. Mass  of the Lord’s Supper – washing of feet

  • service and love. Stripping of the Altar; Vigil before the Blessed Sacrament. Liturgical Colour:

Friday: Meditation on the Man of Sorrows. Solemn Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and Death. A Day of Triumph and Glory! Devotional Stations of the Cross or Evening Prayer (if one has not attended the 3.00 pm Service). Liturgical Colour: RED.

Saturday: A day of silence! The Lord  is in the tomb and all creation is silent, grieving, waiting. The Liturgy of the Hours celebrates  this  wonderfully well. No Liturgical Colour: all is bare.

Saturday Night: Vigil of the Resurrection: Christ is risen! He is the Light! We recount our collective history in  the Readings. Baptism / the  renewal  of baptismal vows signals new life. Alleluia! Liturgical Colour: WHITE or GOLD.

Let us now examine more closely the: TRIDUUM SACRUM OR THREE HOLY DAYS

From Holy Thursday we have the beginning of the Triduum Sacrum or the Three Holy Days: Jesus giving himself in the Eucharist, dying on the Cross, lying in the tomb and rising on the third day. All this is One Mystery! “Do this in memory of me,” said Jesus after he had instituted the Eucharist; “Copy what I have done,” he had said after the washing of the feet. Both of these commandments are directed to the same mystery: the commemoration of the Lord. And the washing of the feet has an unsuspected depth of meaning: when done out of love, the least service rendered to one’s neighbour takes on an extraordinary dimension – a eucharistic dimension.


The celebration of the Eucharist today includes the Washing of the Feet and the Procession transferring the Holy Eucharist to the Altar of Repose.

Points to Remember:
  • The Gloria is after the Homily and before the Washing of the Feet, the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Lay Ministers may renew their commitment for another ]
  • The Washing of the Feet follows
  • “Genuflection on one knee is prescribed before the Blessed Sacrament whether it be reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for public veneration.” (Post-Conciliar Document: On Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery outside of Mass – 21 June 1973, #84)
  • Altar coverings – the so-called stripping of the Altar - are removed in silence without ceremony.

The faithful should be encouraged to continue adoration before the Blessed Sacrament for a suitable period of time during the night; but there should be no solemn adoration after midnight.



The Liturgy of Good Friday is not just a meditation on the Passion or physical sufferings of Jesus: it is a celebration of the Paschal Mystery, although with much emphasis on the historical events it commemorates. It is a celebration of the Lord’s Passion, and that is why it is not only a day of fasting but also a day of Triumph! This is why we use red vestments; and this is why some parishes encourage their members to wear red.


The Liturgy for this day has three parts:

  1. Liturgy of the Word (including the General Intercessions)
  2. Veneration of the Cross
  3. Holy Communion

Liturgy of the Word:

  • No Entrance Song. Entrance is in silence
  • Sing Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Acclamation.
  • Proclamation of the Passion according to John. Have voice-parts rehearsed and ready – including a part for the crowd (the people in the pews), if available. This makes for great participation of the people.
  • Celebrant to sing or speak General Intercessions. Extra intercessions, prepared well beforehand, to pray for contemporary issues at home and abroad, may be added.

Veneration of the Cross:

  • Lighted candles and arrangement for either individual or collective veneration.
  • Music suitable for the veneration: antiphons, hymns & songs
  • Some Church Communities are accustomed to put a collection basket near the cross or crucifix. This can look as if we ask those who venerate the cross to Kiss and Pay!!! Please avoid any semblance of this unhappy juxtaposition!

Holy Communion:

  • Altar linens to be placed on the Altar
  • Lighted candles and humeral veil for celebrant when bringing Blessed Sacrament to the Altar
  • Adequate music for Communion rite.
Note on Holy Communion:

While it is commendable to have the devotion of the Way of the Cross on Good Friday morning, it is incorrect to distribute Holy Communion at this service.

The Post-Conciliar Document On Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery outside of Mass – 21 June 1973, chapter 1, # 16b has this to say:

“On Good Friday, Holy Communion may be distributed only during the celebration of the Passion of our Lord. It may, however, be brought to the sick who are unable to attend the ceremony, at any time of the day.”

And, concerning Holy Saturday, the same Document says:

“On Holy Saturday, Holy Communion may be given only by way of Viaticum.”



Why is this night different from all other nights?

‘It is the great Vigil. A cry, the good news, the incredible news lights up the night. In the heart of the night – a night not like any other night – the cry goes up: Christ is risen! HE is risen indeed! The echoes of the great night greet the day about to dawn, and this cry will be repeated and sung without ceasing on this ‘eighth day’ – that day that will know no evening, on which the Prince of Life will reign.’ [Glenstal Bible Missal, page 227]

Things to Remember:

The Liturgy has four parts:

Service of Light
Liturgy of the Word
Liturgy of Baptism
Liturgy of the Eucharist

 The Service of Light:

  • New fire; Paschal Candle; optional blessing of Candle; procession with Candle; Paschal Proclamation (Exultet).
  • Have ready: candles, taper, coal pot, thurible, incense, tongs, stylus, grains of incense,
  • Musicians: deacon, priest or cantor sings Paschal Proclamation (Exultet).

The Liturgy of the Word:

  • 7 Readings (or choice of at least 4). Since these Readings recount the history of God’s dealings with us, his People, why not let all 7 be read?
  • Gloria; Epistle to Romans; Solemn Alleluia (3X); Gospel of Resurrection;

The Liturgy of Baptism:

  • Litany of the Saints
  • Blessing of the Baptismal water. Musicians: have appropriate music ready.
  • Adult baptism and confirmation after renunciation of evil and profession of faith
  • Renewal of baptismal promises with lighted candles; sprinkling with holy water; music!

The Liturgy of the Eucharist:

  • Newly baptized bring up the gifts
  • Newly baptized receive Communion under both kinds
  • Dismissal with double Alleluia.


The Paschal Mystery is the absolutely fundamental fact of our faith and the centre or hub to which all liturgical celebrations are related.

We are not sure of the earliest dates of the celebration of Easter, but St. Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians 5:7 (written in A.D. 57) makes us see that the Jewish Passover had in fact taken on a ‘Christian’ understanding. In the next century, we find St. Polycarp of Smyrna (A.D. 155), Pope Anicetus (A.D. 166) and Polycrates of Ephesus (A.D. 200) arguing about the right date to celebrate Easter. This points to the fact that Easter must have already been celebrated in the First Century, even though some celebrated it on the day of Passover (14 Nisan) regardless of the day of the week on which it fell, whereas others celebrated it on the Sunday after the 14th of Nisan. The controversy was resolved in the following century at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) which decreed that the date of Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring. In practice, because of the calculation by lunar calendar, Easter can vary from about March 22 to April 23 in any given year.

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