We are now entering the most solemn period for Christians—Holy Week—leading us to our most sacred holiday, Easter and the Resurrection. The week before Easter marks a series of events in the life of Jesus that were ordained or prophesied. These events include the raising of Lazarus (described above) and the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, where he is greeted by large assembly of people carrying olive and palm branches.
On Palm Sunday (Dzaghgazart) the altar curtain, which was closed at the beginning of Lent, is open. The palms are blessed and distributed to the faithful. Children dressed in their best clothes and carrying beautifully decorated candles, parade around the church in a procession. In the evening, or as now done immediately following the Divine Liturgy, the faithful gather at the door of the church or at the closed altar, for the Opening of the Doors (Trnpatsek) ceremony, symbolizing the opening of the gates to the Kingdom of God. This solemn penitential service in preparation of Holy Week is unique to the Armenian Church.
Each day of Holy Week (also called Great Week, Avak Shabat) is a holy day. Monday commemorates the barren fig tree (Matthew 21:18-20). Tuesday commemorates the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:13). Wednesday commemorates the Anointment and Betrayal of Christ (Matthew 26). Thursday is Maundy Thursday, which originates from Christ’s command that His disciples love one another (John 13:34). In the evening the Washing of the Feet (Vodunlva) takes place in remembrance of the events of the Last Supper. Late Thursday evening the betrayal and torment of Christ, Tenebrae (Latin for darkness; in Armenian Khavaroum), is commemorated. In one of the most dramatic ceremonies, Gospel readings describing Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, and denial by Peter, are read interspersed with the singing of hymns composed by Nerses Shnorhali, some of the most beautiful hymns in the Armenian Church. Holy Friday (Avak Ourpat), the solemnest day in the Christian calendar, commemorates the crucifixion, death and burial of our Lord.