The Kalendar in Holy Week


Holy Week is the week beginning with Palm/Passion Sunday and ending at the Eucharist of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. While it falls within Lent, it represents an intensification of Lent and includes the Triduum, the Three Great Days.

Triduum is not a term used by the ’79 BCP. Nevertheless, attention to Triduum is perhaps one of the major differences between the ’79 BCP and all other Books of Common Prayer. Specific liturgies for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday including an Easter Vigil particularly focus attention around this greatest festival of Christ’s self-giving, death, and resurrection.

Every day in Holy Week is an officially named holy day in the BCP. Holy Week begins with “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday,” extends from “Monday in Holy Week” through “Wednesday in Holy Week” before arriving at “Maundy Thursday,” “Good Friday,” and “Holy Saturday.”

Holy Week may start as early as March 15th or end as late as April 24th—giving a 40 day span within which these seven days may be located.

Historical Treatment

Under the early 20th century Pian rules, the first three weekdays of Holy Week are privileged ferias. Doubles of the First or Second Class were transferred until after the Easter octave; lesser feasts were commemorated at Vespers and Lauds. No commemorations were allowed during the Triduum.

Under the rules immediately before Vatican II, all the days in Holy Week were ferias of the first class. Feasts of the first class would be transferred until after the Easter octave; any lesser feasts would be omitted for the year without commemoration.

Thus the temporal days within Lent fell into the following categories; rank/order of precedence is per Ritual Notes:

Rank Class Days
2 Feria, 1st Class The last three days in Holy Week (Triduum)
6 Sunday, 1st Class Palm Sunday
7 Feria, 1st Class The first three days in Holy Week

Within the “Rules to Order the Service” in the English 1662 BCP, rules 1 through 3 address, among other things, occurrence with the days of Holy Week. Rule 1 states that:

When some other greater Holy Day falls on…Palm Sunday or one of the fourteen days following…it shall be transferred as appropriate to the Tuesday after Easter 1…: except that if Easter Day falls on April 22nd, 24th or 25th, the festival of St. Philip and St. James shall be observed on the Tuesday of the week following Easter 1, and the festival of St. Mark shall be observed on the Thursday of that week.

Thus, Holy Days are transferred after the Octave of Easter and special rules are in force when said transference might interfere with other Holy Days.

Rule 2 prohibits a greater Holy Day from superseding Palm Sunday.

Rule 3 states, “A lesser Holy Day shall lapse if it falls…on Palm Sunday or any of the fourteen days following.”

The Table of Precedence in the American 1928 BCP follows the same principle, giving “All the days of Holy Week” precedence and transferring Holy Days to the next open day after the Octave of Easter.

Current Status

The ’79 BCP agrees with both the classical Anglican and modern Roman rules. While the days of Holy Week are not ranked in the BCP’s minimalist system, a note under Holy Days clarifies their place:

Feasts appointed on fixed days in the calendar are not observed on the days of Holy Week or of Easter Week. Major Feasts falling in these weeks are transferred to the week following the Second Sunday of Easter, in the order of their occurrence. (p. 17)

Otherwise, only Good Friday is identified alongside Ash Wednesday as the other “Fast” under Class 3 Holy Days.

General Norms for the Liturgical Year (GNLY) gives all the weekdays of Holy Week “precedence over all other celebrations” (GNLY 16.1). While the ’79 BCP does not define the term Triduum, the GNLY does:

Christ redeemed humankind and gave perfect glory to God principally through his paschal mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life. Therefore the Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of the Lord is the culmination of the entire liturgical year.  Thus the solemnity of Easter has the same kind of preeminence in the liturgical year that Sunday has in the week.

The Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of the Lord begins with the Evening Mass of the Lordʼs Supper, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday, the Sunday of the Lordʼs resurrection.

On Good Friday and, if possible, also on Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil, the Easter fast is observed everywhere.

The Easter Vigil, during the holy night when the Lord rose from the dead, ranks as the “mother of all holy vigils.” Keeping watch, the Church awaits Christʼs resurrection and celebrates it in the sacraments. Accordingly, the entire celebration of this vigil should take place at night, that is, it should either begin after nightfall or end before the dawn of Sunday. (GNLY 18-21)

Thus, the Roman reckoning of Triduum extends through Holy Week proper, encompassing the Sunday of the Resurrection as well as the preceding days.

The order of precedence established in the GNLY 59 is:

Rank Class Days
1 I Easter triduum of the Lordʼs passion and resurrection
2b I Palm Sunday
2c I Weekdays of Holy Week from Monday to Thursday inclusive

Liturgical Days within Holy Week

Holy Days

There are 2 Holy Days that may fall within Holy Week:

Date Class Feast DL Notes
Mar 19 Major Feast (3b) St Joseph A
Mar 25 Feast of our Lord (3a) The Annunciation g

In each case, the feast is transferred outside of both Holy Week and the Octave of Easter as stated in the BCP: “Major Feasts falling in [this week] are transferred to the week following the Second Sunday of Easter, in the order of their occurrence” (p. 17). Given that the fall in quick succession, both feasts are often transferred. If this is the case, the feast of St Joseph should be placed on the Tuesday and the Annunciation on the Thursday after Easter 2 in order that the Eves of both feasts may be duly celebrated without concurrence with one another.

Days of Optional Observance

Days of Optional Observance that fall within Holy Week should lapse for the year.

4 thoughts on “The Kalendar in Holy Week

  1. John-Julian, OJN

    Well, I bow to you: I have never once thought of (or even heard of) your last line about transferring Joseph and Annunciation — you are amazing: skipping a day between Joseph and Annunciation so as to properly celebrate the Eves/Vigils!!! Wow!

    Thank you!

  2. Derek Olsen

    Well, I’d often wondered how far you were supposed to transfer feasts. “Next open day,” yes, but “open” in what sense and for what span? Putting a feast on a Monday would, under ordinary rules, necessary lose its First Vesper to the Second Vespers of the Sunday. So I’ve never been sure if a Monday was actually “open”…

    Rule 1 of the 1662 BCP was my first real guidance with its description of the treatment of Sts Philip & James and St Mark.

    I’m sure Paul will be along shortly with other options and far better documentation. :-)

  3. Christopher


    1) I really appreciate that you hold up the whole of Holy Week. Each day is worthy of attention. That is why this year we have a service each day where I am involved in preparing liturgies. I prefer the spare approach of our BCP that makes the whole week special.

    2) It seems to me Monday isn’t really “open” at least for feasts that are require their own First and Second Vespers.

    3) What will happen if what seems to be the case, ranking of feasts disappears post 2009? I’m thinking of HWHM.

    4) How to keep our prayer common? Meaning that only a common book is necessary to do a bang-up job of finding ourselves in God’s work for us and our own work in response? That is always my question. As I pray the Office in Lent using only the BCP, and using the Sentences in the way you suggest, I am struck by

    a) that not all seasons are afforded the number of Sentences that would help most in marking the season. Advent, stands out in this as example;
    b) that I keep wanting two of three cardstock inserts that include things like a brief set of daily, seasonal, and ferial antiphons for the Gospel Canticles, outline an order for the days/seasons less cumbersome than that provided on 144-145, insert the Prayer for All Sorts and Conditions as the intersessions…;
    c) related to less cumbersome is a reminder that ’79 proceeds on a four Office cycle about which I have some questions if the goal is keeping our prayer common;
    d) also related to less cumbersome is my continued tendency to do pre-’79 canticle use always closing with the Gospel canticles;
    e) related to keeping our prayer common is a want for maintaining clear ranking and provision not only for Collects, but Introits, Offerings, and Antiphons which need not be as complex as pre-Reformation tendencies–I think of Service Book and Hymnal provision for Introits, for example. Something like this could easily be worked into a future BCP;
    f) related to cumbersome is the fact that if I am to celebrate lesser feasts and fasts, I have to resort to another book. Provision of at least the Collects in a BCP would be useful;
    g) when I speak of common, I think of Thornton’s wonderful words on tatty BCP’s carried around in pocket and everywhere by ordinary folk–this should be a guide in how we prepare our orders and structure any future revision;
    h) That the Resurrection “craze” of the LRM is in force in ’79. That’s not a criticism of Resurrection piety, mind you, but that my own piety tends to be more steeped in Christmas Day and Good Friday, and I wonder if the traditional Anglican emphasis of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, our so-called incarnational piety, is dethroned in this shift;
    i) how much Rite II is in my bones at this point. Many prayers are memorized.

  4. Derek Olsen


    1) I really appreciate that you hold up the whole of Holy Week Hey, I’m just trying to pull together and lay out in the book and, sure enough, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.

    2) Correct—Monday can’t be open for any feast with a First Vespers and, according to the BCP, that’s any feast from Category 1 through 3.

    3) I’m not sure what you mean on the disappearance of ranking… Current rules already demand no official distinguishing between Days of Optional Observance. However, as long as Ember Days, Rogation Days, and Sapientia-tide are kept, some form of ranking will continue to be necessary. Personally, I don’t like that there are only two options: transference or lapse. With the huge multiplication of days and the necessary requirement for local feasts, commemoration is the only way to keep everybody on the kalendar.

    Unless, of course, the SCLM allows an anti-criterion 6—if we can prove that nobody across the church actually celebrates someone can we please drop them from the kalendar??

    4a) True, but the LRM has always had it in for Advent.
    4b) I’ve got a Roman book of Psalms that on the inside of the front cover flap has the Benedictus and on the inside back cover flap has the Magnificat. This always struck me as a really good idea. However, this assumes that people see one of the main functions of the BCP as the Daily Office which, sadly, is not the current culture of our Church. Yes, we’re doing what we can to change this, but I think of the number of converts who come into the Episcopal Church and who don’t even know that the Daily Office exists let alone that it’s a key part of the Anglican heritage and spirituality. And I’m talking clergy here, not just laity; if the clergy don’t know it not only will they not pray it, they won’t teach it either.

    In terms of all of your cumbersome points, I’d like to make a suggestion…

    Life is changing. How we pray is changing as well. I love the ideal of gathering for the Offices. Given the realities of modern life, I don’t see it happening on the scale that it used to. If common Daily Office prayer is going to happen it will be by the dispersed liturgical community. This is an opportunity to embrace a new paradigm and to see what the paradigm gives us as well as what it takes away.

    Negotiating a classical pie is hard work; going to a website that can do it all for you is easy…

    The normative format of the BCP will remain the codex for quite a long time to come. But electronic versions will and must proliferate in the coming years. Tatty BCPs, yes, I’m all for them—but far more likely is whipping out an iPhone on the train, bus, or a quiet moment at your desk.

    4i) Yes, mine too.

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