Holy Week and Easter in Jerusalem
The period of Lent is at the end point, and both Christians from the local area and thousands of pilgrims who have traveled to the Holy City are preparing to celebrate Holy Week and its culmination on Easter Sunday – the most important period of the Christian liturgical year.
Holy Week officially starts with the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday- April 1, with Mass at 8 a.m. at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and later the traditional palm procession in the afternoon. After, at 2:30 p.m., thousands of Christian pilgrims from all over the world will joyfully march from Bethphage, singing and praying in all languages, down the western slope of the Mount of Olives across the Kidron valley and into the Old City of Jerusalem.
Later in the week on Holy Thursday, the the Lord’s Supper will be celebrated at the Holy Sepulchre with a morning Mass at 8 a.m. by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and at 3:30 p.m., the Franciscans will begin their traditional peregrination to the Upper Room (Cenacle) on Mount Zion. In the evening, starting at 9 p.m., local Christians and visiting pilgrims alike will watch and pray during a meditative Holy Hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by a candlelight procession to the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. The traditional place where it is said Jesus spent the night after his arrest.
The Lord’s Passion and crucifixion will be remembered at Calvary in the morning of Good Friday at 8 a.m., followed by the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa at 11:30 a.m. led by the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land. After, at 8:10 p.m., Christ’s funeral will be celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, an event unique to the Church of Jerusalem, reenacting the deposition of Christ’s body into the tomb.
The great climax and much anticipated Easter Vigil is held on Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. in the Basilica of the Resurrection (Church of the Holy Sepulchre), followed with the solemn entrance of the Patriarch at 3:30 p.m. and recitation of vespers at 6 p.m.
Easter Sunday Mass is celebrated at 8 a.m. with a procession around Jesus’ tomb, and then the daily procession will take place at 5 p.m.
Finally, on Easter Monday, the encounter between Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus will be remembered with the celebration of Mass at the Holy Sepulchre at 8 a.m., and also by the Custos in Emmaus at 10 a.m.
Plan for Easter Impact
Many Christian Leaders and Christian community organizers ask if Easter is a good time to organize a Church group tour in Jerusalem. The short answer is no. Hotels are full, airfare is high, and holy sites are packed with local and Christian pilgrims from all over the world. Also many regular escorted Israel tours do not operate during the Holy Week.
Easter Week and the months leading up to Easter Sunday however are the ideal period to begin to plan, promote and organize a Church group to the Holy Land either that fall period or spring time for the following year.
The first months of the New Year and Easter time is when many attendees are present with the regulars as well as new visitors to the services. Many Christian Leaders take this time to introduce events, activities, and Christian Holy Land tours to their members.
It is important to ask yourself, “is there a follow-up plan?” How will you reconnect with your visitors? Have you planned activities, trips, and sermon series or small groups to engage and peak interest with your membership. After all, with the millennial generations coming to age. There is never enough planning and organizing to satisfy the needs of your congregation.