Friday, April 6, 2012

Holy Week or Holy Living?

All over our fair city one is finding advertisements for many “holy week” observances such as “Good Friday” and “Easter Sunrise Services.”  We must, therefore, ask the question; “Are these celebrations biblical?”  Did Jesus and His Apostles command such celebrations?  Did the Apostles celebrate these things themselves?  Did they even infer that such celebrations were allowed?  The answer is a resounding, NO!

From Matthew to Revelation we find nary a trace of anything called “Holy Week.”  To add such celebrations to the Holy Scripture would be presumptuous, arrogant and wrong.  How, then, did the several observances of “Holy Week” come into being?  The so-called “Holy Week” has six components:

·         Ash Wednesday
·         Lent
·         Palm Sunday
·         Maundy Thursday
·         Good Friday
·         Easter Sunday

What do all of these celebrations have in common?  They are all Roman Catholic in origin and have “meanings” that are allegorically assigned.   Allegorical interpretive methods were adopted by the apostate church beginning in the 2nd century based most notably upon the teachings of the so-called “church father,” Origen.  Origen taught that all Scripture has multiple meanings and each individual can interpret the Scripture based upon their own individual experiences, understandings and stories.  The RCC then began to assign “meanings” to Scripture erroneously (in error.)  Strangely, even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that these celebrations were unknown in the first century:

…there seems much to suggest that the Church in the Apostolic Age designed to commemorate the Resurrection of Christ, not by an annual, but by a weekly celebration.[1]

Here is a short history of these allegorical additions to God’s complete Will…“the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”  -  Jude 3 (KJV):

1)   ASH WEDNESDAY – Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the 40 days of Lent.  The name comes from the practice of taking the ashes from the previous years burnt palm leaves form “Palm Sunday” and spreading them on the foreheads of parishioners in the form of a cross.  This is said to be representative of “mourning and repentance.”  This supposedly prepares the adherents for the 40 days of Lent following. Historically, Ash Wednesday was first celebrated annually beginning around the year 960.

2)   LENT – The word “Lent” is from the old English word lencten which means to “lengthen” and was used to describe the longer days of the spring season.  The time span of “Lent” was totally allegorical and imaginative.  It was based upon the fact that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness as He prepared for His temptation.  Other allegorical assignments were also made:

The duration of the season of Lent is based on the ancient church custom of requiring catechumens to undergo a forty-day period of doctrinal instruction and fasting before being baptized on the evening before Easter This probationary period was called the quarantine (from the Latin word for forty). [2]

The annual celebration of Lent dates to the mid 5th century and is noted by several church historians of that time; Leo, Socrates and Jerome.

3)   PALM SUNDAY – Palm Sunday was never celebrated in the apostolic era and apparently not annually celebrated until the 6th century at the very earliest.[3]

4)   MAUNDY THURSDAY – Thursday is the traditional day of the Lord’s Supper.  “Maunday” comes from the Latin term mandatum novum, meaning new commandment.  It is also known as “Holy Thursday” or “Green Thursday.”

Zelený čtvrtek (Green Thursday) is how the Czechs and Moravians refer to Maundy Thursday. One explanation is that in many places, before the thirteenth century, green vestments were used for the Mass that day. Another is that this is a reference to "the Green Ones," the penitents who, being re-admitted to the Church, wore sprigs of green herbs to express their joy. 

5)   GOOD FRIDAY – The annual celebration of both Good Friday and Easter date to, at the earliest, the 2nd century A.D.  Though unknown in the 1st century, these two festivals were the earliest of practiced “Holy Week” observances from a historical standpoint.

6)   EASTER – The word “Easter” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word, eostre.  The word generally came to refer to the “spring season.”  It has clear pagan overtones since the word was the name for the so-called goddess of spring:

This mythical figure is said to have been the goddess of the sunrise and the spring. She is the Teutonic goddess of the dawn. The direction of the sunrise, East, is named for her. In Norse mythology, the name is spelled Eostare. Another considered the Norse/Saxon goddess of spring is Ostara. Eastre is believed to be an ancient word for spring.[4]


Any and all “Holy Week” celebrations are at best extra-biblical and at worst un-biblical.  They are all allegorical, presumptuous and self centered.  They were created by men for men and do not glorify God in any way, shape, matter or form.  We were called, not to “Holy Week” but to holy living!  We celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ EVERY Lord’s Day during the Lord’s Supper and not during an annual celebration of so-called “Holy Week.”  For a biblical perspective, read I Corinthians 11. 

– Russ McCullough – 8 April 2012

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