Holy Week: Explained

As Catholics across the Diocese and around the world prepare for the beginning of Holy Week, the Military Ordinariate of Australia takes you through the liturgical events across the week and what happens at each one.


Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday, palms are blessed, and our churches are often decorated with palms. This commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem when palms were laid down by the people as He entered the town, before His arrest on Holy Thursday.



Tenebrae is a reflection liturgy with scripture, Psalm chanting and motets. During the liturgy, there is a progressive extinguishing of candles and darkening of the church. For a brief time towards the end of the service, the church is in darkness, only to be startled by a loud noise symbolising the earthquake at the death of Jesus. Afterwards, the single candle representing Christ is returned to the church and restored to its place.


Chrism Mass

All the priests of the Diocese gather to celebrate this Mass, where they renew their priestly vows. During the Mass, the oils used for sacramental rituals throughout the Diocese are blessed and consecrated. These oils are then individually presented to parish representatives at the end of the Mass.

All are welcome to attend the Chrism Mass on Monday, 25 March at St Chriostpher’s Cathedral, Forrest, ACT, from 5.00pm.


Holy Thursday

The Holy Thursday Mass, which we also refer to as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, focuses on the institution of the Eucharist. Following the homily, the priest may wash the feet of twelve people to symbolise how Christ led through service. Following the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament will usually be taken from the tabernacle to another place for adoration and then reservation.



Good Friday

On the morning of Good Friday, we pray the 14 Stations of the Cross, spiritually accompanying Jesus on his journey to Golgotha. At 3pm on Good Friday, the Celebration of the Passion of Christ takes place. Following this liturgy, the crosses around the church that were covered are now uncovered.



Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil takes place after sunset on Holy Saturday, and usually begins outside the church around a small fire. Here the Paschal candle is lit, and everyone processes following the candle into the dark church. Baptismal candles for the next 12 months are lit from the flame of the Paschal candle. It is at the Easter Vigil that catechumens joining the Catholic faith are baptised and welcomed into the community.


Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the new life He gives us. The next 50 days through to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy as ‘one great Sunday’ and are known as Easter Time, or Easter Tide.


Written by Sr Mary Louise Walsh ISSM

Courtesy of CatholicOutlook