Memories of the Holy Week
By Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI
March 24, 2024

Holy Week begins with the celebration of Palm Sunday and ends when the Mass of Holy Saturday begins. The climax of the celebration is the Paschal Triduum, celebrating the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the Passion and Death of Christ on Good Friday, and the Resurrection of Christ on Eastern Sunday. The name “Holy Week” was used in the 4th century by St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, and by St. Epiphanius of Constantia.

Many people sometimes wonder why the four days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday could be called the Paschal Triduum (Holy Three Days). Here is the reason. At the time of Jesus, a day is determined from sunset to sunset. Thus, the first day of the Holy Triduum is from sunset of Holy Thursday to sunset of Good Friday. The second day is from sunset of Good Friday to sunset of Holy Saturday. And the third day is from sunset of Holy Saturday to sunset of Easter Sunday.

As we approach the holiest week of the liturgical year, I remember some significant memories of past Holy Weeks.

Palm Sunday

On the day before Palm Sunday, my older brothers would climb a coconut tree and cut down two branches. I would watch them as they transform the branches into some beautiful shapes. Each member of our family would then happily carry a palm to our parish church in Marbel, Koronadal Valley (South Cotabato) for the blessing of palms, making sure that some Holy Water would fall on our palms. Nowadays, the selling of beautifully shaped palms has become a lucrative enterprise. Moreover, many people stay in the church rather than join the procession after the blessing of the palms in order to keep their places in the pews.

Holy Thursday

My father was once chosen as one of the 12 Apostles for Holy Thursday. I saw him wash his feet and wear a new pair of socks for the washing of the feet. Our Parish Priest, an American Oblate of Mary Immaculate, would kneel and wash my father’s right foot, that had already been washed. Not so with one or two of the other Apostles. Old unwashed socks and unwashed feet are far from fragrant.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, our family had a very strict rule: Silence and no music. The Seven Last Words were delivered in Hiligaynon by my High School Spanish teacher. He had been in his last year of theology in a seminary in the Visayas when World War II broke out. He had gotten married. Our parish priest asked him to do the Seven Last Words to a fully packed church in sweltering heat with not a single electric fan. It was a fitting participation in the sufferings of Christ. When his wife died, he decided to return to his original vocation. He informed his two children, then had a two-year updating course in Theology. He was ordained a priest by the late Bishop Gerard Mongeau, O.M.I., of Cotabato. He was already in his 70’s.

Our family was once chosen to have one of the Stations of the Cross. We built one bamboo booth in front of our house and decorated it with palm branches. Inside the booth was a table covered with white linen. We displayed on the table the image of the Station assigned to us. No flowers on the table, just candles. My mother had the flowers removed, to show the stark somberness and simplicity of the Cross.

Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday

When I was a young priest at the Cotabato diocesan seminary, the Rector instructed me to help at a parish for Easter Sunday. I was there for the Encuentro or Salubong, where an angel would lift the veil covering the face of Our Blessed Mother and would behold her Risen Son. The procession with the Blessed Mother and the procession with the Risen Jesus met at the town park in front of the church. Little angels began singing Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Then one of the angels was lifted up by a cable while joyfully singing Alleluia. She was the one assigned to lift up Our Lady’s veil. Unfortunately, the cable got stuck. The angel kept singing, then realized she was hanging in mid-air, and the cable could not move. She began to cry in panic, kicking her legs up and down. The mothers began to shout for help. Finally, the cable got unstuck and the girl, still crying, was finally able to lift the veil of the Blessed Mother. The people began clapping—for the girl and for the Encuentro of Mother and Son.

Holy Week is the celebration of the Cross, Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, a celebration of the Paschal Mystery—the saving event of humankind. By sin, we sunder our union with God. By Christ’s Paschal Mystery, we are once again reunited with God. Hence, to Holy Week we bring an interior attitude of penance and prayer, the joy of redemption, love for our compassionate God, and hope of eternal life and glory.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo is the archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Cotabato in southern Philippines.