In my third year as a Catholic, I’m pretty sure Protestants do Holy Week better. Obviously, I mean liturgical Protestants. I’ve explained to many a Baptist what Lent, Maunday Thursday, and Good Friday are as if speaking a foreign language. But I’m talking about churches that do have services throughout the whole week.
Palm Sunday: This is day Jesus rides into Jerusalem. The people are celebratory and shouting hosannas. It’s a pretty up-tempo time. People are gathering from all around for Passover.
Protestant response: waves palms, talk about donkeys, celebrate arrival to Jerusalem.
Catholic response: cover statues, wave palms, read the long narrative of Jesus’ trail and crucifixion.
We’re days away from the crucifixion. We’ve still got the betrayal, the Last Supper, the arrest. We’re still in the optimistic part of the story! Why is this part combined with Palm Sunday?
Maunday Thursday: The night the disciples and Jesus washed feet and ate the Last Supper. Later, Jesus was arrested.
Protestant response: Have communion, strip the alter, leave in silence. Sad.
Catholic response: Wash feet, have communion, remove the Eucharist from the tabernacle. I suspect that they are supposed to leave in silence, but the rule isn’t observed.
I understand that the day is a little more upbeat for Catholics, since they focus on the institution of two sacraments—Eucharist and priesthood. Yet the arrest gets sort of shuffled off into the corner. The Eucharist is removed, but we’re not told why. It’s the turning point of the week; I believe the betrayal and arrest need more attention. The perfect ending to Maunday Thursday is when you step out of a silent church and hear police sirens in the distance.
Good Friday and Easter I can’t really compare. I go to different services, and I think both handle those well. I just think the Protestants I know put Palm Sunday and Maunday Thursday on a better timeline and emotional tone than what I’ve experienced in Catholicism. Really, the best thing is to just go to both churches and fill Holy Week up with extra church time.