Detailed Lent and Easter Timeline: The events and celebrations of the Passiontide and the Holy Week

The last 2 weeks of the Season of Lent are called the Passiontide, the last week of which is called the Passion or Holy Week.It is a busy time with all the events that lead up to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

Season of Lent:

  • Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Season of Lent. It is a day of repentance and forgiveness (21 February).
  • The fourth Sunday of Lent is known by many names. Predominantly Roman Catholics call it Laetare Sunday: “Laetare” (Latin) means “rejoice!” and refers to the Introit (or the song that starts that day’s mass): “O be joyful, Jerusalem”. In England it is called Mothering Sunday. Roman Catholics also call it Rose Sunday, because on that day the Pope blesses the “Golden Rose” – some Popes sent these roses to certain monarchs to honor them. In French it is called “Mi-Careme” or Mid-Lent, since it marks the midpoint of Lent. It is also called “the Sunday of the Five Loaves,” because that parable is the traditional Gospel reading on that day. (18 March)

Passiontide begins on Passion Sunday:

  • The fifth Sunday of Lent is still commonly called Passion Sunday (though in the 60’s, the Second Vatican Council reserved that name for the next Sunday). It is also called Judica Sunday, after the Introit “Judica me, Deus” or “Judge me, O Lord”. (25 March)

Holy Week or Passion Week, as it is still popularly called (Vaticanum II transferred that name to the first week of Easter), is the last week before Easter and starts on Palm Sunday:

  • The last Sunday of Lent is traditionally called Palm Sunday (Vaticanum II: “Passion Sunday”). Christians commemorate Jesus’ “Triumphant Entry” as King and Messiah into a Jerusalem thronged by pilgrims for the Passover Feast. He rides on a donkey (signifying humility and is greeted with “Hosanna” and the waving of palm branches (signifying peace). (1 April
  • On Monday, Jesus preaches in the Temple and cleanses it by chasing off the moneychangers and vendors. (2 April)
  • On Tuesday, Jesus and the Pharisees dispute in the Temple. He leaves for the garden of Gethsemane on Mount Olivet or the Mount of Olives. There he delivers the “Mount Olivet Discourse”. Judas agrees to betray him to the Jewish priests for 30 pieces of silver. (3 April
  • On Holy or Spy Wednesday, Judas spies on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. (4 April). In the Catholic tradition, this is also called Dark Wednesday or the Wednesday of Darkness, to underscore the loneliness of Jesus. (In 1714 Couperin composed a beautiful piece called the Leçons de ténèbres pour le mercredi Saint).

Easter Triduum or Three Days before Easter:

  • On Holy or Maundy Thursday, at the Passover Feast, Jesus and his disciples share the “Last Supper”. Jesus blesses his bread and wine as his flesh and blood and shares it with his disciples (Communion). He informs them that one of them will betray him. They go back to the garden of Gethsemane. (5 April)

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