OpinionsEye OpenerRelevance of Holy Week

Relevance of Holy Week


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The Holy Week is an annual tradition that is deeply ingrained in our culture, yet how much do we truly understand about its significance?

As a devout Catholic, I’d like to shed light on some lesser-known aspects of its observance within the Philippine context and also remind everyone, especially practicing Catholics, what celebrating the Holy Week is all about and how relevant it still is today.

Known as Semana Santa, this event honors the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For us Filipinos, it serves as a time to reaffirm our faith, strengthen familial ties, and uphold cherished customs. Allow me to explore some intriguing facts surrounding this pivotal event in the Philippines’ religious and cultural calendar.

  • The term “Semana Santa” originates from Spanish, translating to “Holy Week”. Originally written in lowercase, the capitalization of semana and santa reflects its elevated status as a special occasion.
  • Semana Santa has been observed in the Philippines since the 16th century, coinciding with the Spanish colonization. However, its exact inception remains undocumented, likely evolving.
  • Historically, activities such as swimming or bathing were prohibited, particularly on Good Friday, symbolizing reverence for Jesus’ death. Elders often believed that water turned to blood if one bathed on this day.
  • During Lent, Filipinos commonly practice abstention from meat and other indulgences as a form of sacrifice. Some people refrain from doing activities such as playing video games, watching movies, texting, and social media.
  • Maundy Thursday sees devout Catholics partake in the Last Supper mass, where priests symbolically wash congregants’ feet, embodying humility and service.
  • Good Friday is marked by solemn processions reenacting the Stations of the Cross, with some individuals engaging in acts of penance like self-flagellation or crucifixion.
  • In certain regions, covering mirrors and windows during the Good Friday procession is a traditional practice believed to ward off malevolent spirits.
  • Black Saturday fosters introspection, while Easter Sunday erupts in jubilant celebration, commemorating Jesus’ resurrection.
  • The tradition of Pabása ng Pasyón, an uninterrupted recitation of Christ’s life and passion for a week, originated in the Philippines, first documented in 1704 by Gaspar Aquino de Belen, a Filipino poet.


Is it still relevant today?

In the ever-evolving human culture, traditions often stand as markers of our collective heritage, offering a glimpse into our shared history and values. Among these traditions, Holy Week holds a unique place, weaving together spirituality, reflection, and community. But in a rapidly changing world, some may question its relevance. Is celebrating Holy Week still pertinent today?

Holy Week, spanning from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, commemorates the final days of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, as recounted in the Christian scriptures. While rooted in religious belief, its significance transcends mere doctrine, resonating with themes of sacrifice, redemption, and renewal that are universally understood.

In a society often besieged by distractions and discord, Holy Week offers a pause—an opportunity to engage in introspection and connect with deeper meanings. Its rituals, from the solemnity of Good Friday to the jubilance of Easter, provide a structured framework for contemplation and spiritual renewal, irrespective of one’s faith or creed.

Moreover, Holy Week serves as a testament to the enduring power of community and tradition. Across the globe, individuals gather in churches, homes, and public spaces to participate in age-old rituals, fostering bonds of solidarity and shared purpose.

In an era marked by fragmentation and isolation, these communal expressions of faith offer solace and strength, reminding us of our interconnectedness.

Yet, Holy Week is not confined to the realm of the spiritual. Its themes of sacrifice and resurrection resonate with contemporary challenges and aspirations. In a world grappling with environmental degradation, social injustice, and personal adversity, the message of hope inherent in Easter speaks to humanity’s innate resilience and capacity for transformation.

Furthermore, Holy Week prompts us to confront uncomfortable truths and engage with difficult questions. In the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, we encounter themes of suffering, injustice, and forgiveness—issues that remain painfully relevant in today’s world. Through reflection and dialogue, Holy Week invites us to confront these realities and strive for a more just and compassionate society.

In essence, the relevance of Holy Week lies not in its adherence to tradition alone but in its capacity to inspire meaning and reflection in our lives.

As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, Holy Week stands as a beacon of hope—a timeless reminder of our shared humanity and the enduring power of faith, community, and renewal.

Whether it is celebrated in grand cathedrals or humble homes, its message transcends time and circumstance, offering solace and inspiration to all who seek it.


Author’s email: wea_129@yahoo.com



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