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Holy Week 2024: Visita Iglesia, flagellation, washing of the feet and other traditions, explained

Holy Week 2024: Visita Iglesia, flagellation, washing of the feet, and other traditions, explained

Holy Week is among the most important times for Catholics around the world. This year, the observance of Holy Week begins on March 24 and ends on March 31.

According to Sister Klara Neldis of Daughters of Virgin Mary Immaculate, an association of Catholic women around the world, this special week is dedicated to remembering the suffering and passion of Jesus Christ.

"This is the time where Catholics accompany Jesus in His mission to save us by praying fervently, going to confession, doing work of mercy, and visiting some churches," she said.

"During the Holy Week, the church reminds the faithful to keep silent," she added, saying that loud music and Filipinos' well-loved karaoke must be avoided.

Filipinos have several traditions during Holy Week, and if you're not sure how some practices are done or why some customs are observed, here are some of the answers you might be looking for.

What do we do during Visita Iglesia?

Among the things Filipinos do in observance of Holy Week is visit seven churches and pray at the Stations of the Cross in every church.

Called Visita Iglesia, this form of panata is usually done in groups, with many believers saying that their prayers will be granted if they complete the stations.

"This devotion is a good practice to really depend on our faith in Jesus and also a way to meditate deeply about his sufferings," Sister Klara said.

Altars of repose are set up at churches, where pilgrims are invited to reflect on the Passion of Christ.

These temporary structures set during the Holy Week can be decorated with flowers, candles, and small fountains, depending on the church that houses them.

Pilgrims will usually kneel before the altars, meditate on a scriptural excerpt, and offer prayers and adoration, all while recalling Jesus's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

What does the Church say about flagellation as panata?

In some parts of the country, the practice of flagellation is being done to "imitate the Lord."

Self-flagellation is the act of punishing oneself by hitting their body with whips or sticks. This is also related to the practice of carrying a heavy cross while walking the streets and getting crucified with real nails, just as it was done to Jesus.

"They believe this practice can clean them from sins, granting prayers and cure illness," Sister Klara said. "However, the Catholic church disapproves of this practice."

The Church strongly discourages the faithful against this practice, especially since it can be dangerous and life-threatening.

It is said that this must only be done if it is supervised by a spiritual director who knows how to properly apply it.

The Department of Health has also previously cautioned the public on this practice, saying that the leading health risk that people could get from such activities is tetanus, or infection due to bacteria called Clostridium tetani.

Bruises and sprains are also possible when the bones in the hands and feet are nailed.

Why do we bring palaspas to church on Palm Sunday?

During Palm Sunday, Catholics are invited to participate in the mass to commemorate the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.

"Like the Jews in the time of Jesus, the faithful will wave their palm branches while singing hosanna to the King, son of David," Sister Klara said.

The palm branches, or palaspas, will be blessed during mass and displayed at home for the entire week.

This religious symbol and the practice of waving it during Palm Sunday are done in remembrance of Jesus's stepping on the palm branches laid by his followers as he set foot in His birthplace.

Later on, the palm branches are collected and burned into ashes, which are used by priests to draw a cross on the faithfuls' foreheads on the next year's Ash Wednesday.

Why do priests wash the feet of 12 people on Maundy Thursday?

Sister Klara said that there are two celebrations happening in the church on Maundy Thursday.

"In the morning, there is a chrism mass in the cathedral. The priests renew their obedience to the bishop of their diocese. In the evening, there is the celebration of the last supper, where Jesus consecrated bread and wine. The washing of the feet takes place during this mass," she said.

According to the Gospel, the washing of the disciples' feet was Jesus's final act of service for them, except Judas, who had already left to betray Him.

In the Roman Rite for Holy Thursday evening Liturgy, the reenactment of Jesus's washing his disciples' feet is done to remind the worshipping community to follow Jesus and his brand of service: humble and heartfelt.

The priest presiding over the Maundy Thursday mass is the one who will wash the feet of 12 selected people from the church.

The word Maundy is from the Latin word called "mandatum," which means "commandment." It is taken after Jesus gave his commandment to his disciples to love one another.

How do we observe fasting or penance on Good Friday?

On Good Friday, there is no mass held in churches.

"This is the day where we remember His arrest, suffering, passion, crucifixion, and death on the cross," Sister Klara said.

"The faithful are invited to the stations of the cross, and usually at 3 p.m., join the liturgy of the Word, veneration of the cross," she said.

Fasting and penance must also be observed.

Fasting may be observed in different ways, but during Holy Week, it is observed by abstaining from food. This is done by restricting food intake and having only one full meal a day.

Meanwhile, penance is observed by abstaining from eating meat, such as beef, pork, or chicken. In place of meat, Catholics are encouraged to eat vegetables and fish. Eggs, milk, grains, and fruits are also recommended.

Aside from Good Friday, fasting and abstinence are also obligatory on Ash Wednesday.

These obligations are for those 18 to 59 years of age. Those with medical conditions are exempt from this.

Black Saturday and Easter Sunday

On Black Saturday, which is also known as Holy Saturday, the day before Jesus' resurrection, the church mourns and reflects on His death while preparing for His return.

"We spend the day in prayer, remembering Jesus' death," Sister Klara said.

Finally, on Easter Sunday, the church rejoices with Jesus' resurrection.

Catholics attend mass and celebrate the day when Jesus rises from the dead, a day filled with joy and gratitude.

—MGP, GMA Integrated News