As we all know, the Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday when Catholics go to church not just to attend mass but also to have their palms blessed by the priest. Do you know why this is done? Well, it is said that the keeping of palms and olive branches is a symbolism of a home’s faith in Jesus Christ, especially His paschal victory. These palms are even used by some as Easter baskets where Easter eggs can be placed.
It is on Holy Thursday when the Tenebrae services begin in most churches. This Christian religious service lasts for three days, from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday, and involves a ceremony where candles are extinguished and a series of readings and psalms is recited or chanted. Aside from Tenebrae services, confessions are ideally done on Holy Thursday, with churches offering more than one confession sessions in a day. You may also participate in a Visita Iglesia if you want to pray and visit different churches for your Holy Week celebration this year. Joining this activity can be easy for lots of churches organize their own Visita Iglesia.
All holy days of the Lent, including Good Friday, can be ideal days to reflect in a retreat or recollection, which you can participate in by inquiring a Catholic church near you or organizing it yourself. Here’s a post that features a list of some of the top retreat houses in Cebu.
Furthermore, consider doing Stations of the Cross in Good Shepherd, Banawa or in Guadalupe’s Langub Church or inside Catholic churches so you can pray the rosary solemnly and revisit the most important moments in Jesus Christ’s human life through the 15 stations. This activity is also a great way to thank God for all of his blessings as well as ask for sincere petitions, whether for yourself or for others.
Finally and most importantly, do not ever miss the Siete Palabras (literally means “seven last words”) presentation, which starts at 12 noon and ends at 3 pm. It showcases Jesus’s last moments on earth on the day of his crucifixion and discusses the seven last words that he uttered while he was suffering from severe pain on the cross. A great Siete Palabras presentation can be witnessed in Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.
This holy day serves as an “empty time of waiting”, since the Lord has just been crucified and died on the cross at exactly 3 pm on Good Friday. No mass or communion or confession is offered during this solemn day; however, you can choose to participate in the last day of the Tenebrae service as well as the Blessing of the New Fire and Lighting of Candles to complete your Black Saturday reflection.
As a Catholic, witnessing the Sugat presentation should be the first thing that you should do at the dawn of Easter Sunday. This represents the rising of Jesus Christ from being dead. A popular Sugat presentation in Cebu is the Sugat Kabanhawan of Minglanilla, which involves Sinulog-like dancing and a dramatic re-enactment of the Risen Christ’s life.
Easter Sunday is also a day of rejoicing over the Lord’s rising from the dead, which then gives the Catholics a reason to go to the beach with the whole family, a tradition that is being practiced by lots of Cebuanos (and Filipinos) for many years now. But before having fun with your loved ones, spend the Easter completely by attending a Holy Mass of Easter and letting kids participate in after-mass Easter games, such as the classic Easter Egg Hunt.