As the Church prepares to enter into Holy Week, we do well to consider the final week of Jesus’ life, from Friday to Friday. In a later post, we will look at the last twenty-four hours (from the Last Supper to the death of Jesus on the Cross) in greater detail.
It will be helpful to review the Gospel accounts given by Sts. Mark and John, the two who offer the most explicit chronology of Holy Week. See Mark 11:1 – 15:37 and also John 11:54 – 19:30.
The Friday before the Passion
Jesus was in the city of Ephraim, in hiding since the Jewish authorities desired to kill him. On this day (before evening), Jesus and his disciples went up to Jerusalem, before the pasch to purify themselves (John 11:55).
They spent the night in Bethany, which is very close to Jerusalem.
Saturday before the Passion
Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (John 12:1-3)
The pasch (i.e. Passover) was on a Thursday that year (beginning Thursday eve with the Passover Meal), and so six days before, that is, on Friday, Jesus came to Bethany.
The next day, which is to say, Saturday, Jesus came to the feast there and was anointed by Mary of Bethany (that is, Mary Magdalene [here]). In this first anointing, Mary pours the oil over the Savior’s feet.
This meal and anointing occurred, most probably, at the house of Lazarus known as the Lazarium.
Our Savior spent the night in Bethany.
And on the next day, Sunday (John 12:12), Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem upon an ass and upon a colt, the foul of an ass. This was the first Palm Sunday, when the children of the Hebrews bearing olive branches went forth to meet the Lord, crying out and saying, “Hosanna in the highest!”
Our Lord returned to Bethany for the night.
Monday of Holy Week
On the way into Jerusalem, Jesus sees a fig tree which has born no fruit – which tree he curses in the presence of his disciples.
Upon entering the city, our Lord goes up and cleanses the Temple for the second time (he had cleansed it once already, two years ago – cf. John 2:13ff [see our article, here]).
That eve, Jesus returned to Bethany (cf. Mark 11:19).
Tuesday of Holy Week
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples notice that the fig tree which he had cursed the morning before has now withered. They are amazed.
Entering the Temple area, Jesus preaches extensively and answers the questions of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
It is on this day that our Lord tells the parable of the vineyard workers who kill the owner’s son who is the heir to the vineyard. Also, on this occasion, the Lord answers the questions regarding the tribute to Caesar, the resurrection of the body, the greatest commandment, and whether the Christ will be the son of David.
Further, while in the Temple, our Lord sees a widow offer two small coins and declares her gift to be greater than those of the others.
Finally, Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple and speaks of the final judgment.
He returns that night to Bethany.
Spending the day in retirement, our Lord attends a feast at the house of a certain Pharisee, Simon the Leper. During this meal, Mary of Bethany (i.e. Magdalene [here]) again anoints our Lord, but this time upon his head (cf. Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3).
As before, Judas complains; but now he is set against our Savior, and so goes to the priests to betray Jesus. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray him to them. (Mark 14:10)
Because it was this evening that Judas conspired against Jesus, the day is called “Spy Wednesday”.
Now on the first day of the unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the pasch, the disciples say to him: Whither wilt thou that we go, and prepare for thee to eat the pasch? (Mark 14:12)
Because the Passover meal would be consumed Thursday evening, Jesus sent his disciples to make the preparations for the pasch. They went from Bethany to Jerusalem and prepared the upper room.
On this evening, Jesus offered the Last Supper in which he instituted both the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Upon finishing the meal, our Lord and his apostles (excepting Judas, who left early) sang a hymn and then went forth to the Mount of Olives.
On this night, our Lord suffered the agony in the garden and was arrested. Jesus spends the night locked in the dungeon of the house of Caiaphas, after undergoing a secret night-trial by the Sanhedrin.
It was on Friday that our Lord suffered and died. Condemned to death at 10am, nailed to the Cross at noon, and dying at 3pm.
Christ was buried before 5pm and, the stone being rolled across the entrance, all departed.