Scripture Readings for Holy Week

The Gospels on the coffin of Pope John Paul II, May 1, 2011. (Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
The Gospels are displayed on the coffin of Pope John Paul II, May 1, 2011. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
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Christ, the Eternal High Priest

The Gospels on the coffin of Pope John Paul II, May 1, 2011. (Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
The Gospels are displayed on the coffin of Pope John Paul II, May 1, 2011. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

We begin Holy Week with the triumphal procession of Palm Sunday, when Christ entered Jerusalem and the people laid palms on the road before Him. Five days later, on Good Friday, some of those same people were likely among those who cried, "Crucify Him!"

Redoubling Our Efforts

We can learn a lot from their behavior. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," and even as Lent draws to a close, we realize that, like those who called for Christ's Crucifixion, we all too often slip and fall into sin. During these last days, especially during the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, we should redouble our efforts with prayer and fasting, so that we may be worthy to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.

The New Covenant, Sealed in the Blood of Christ

That, too, is the theme of these Scripture readings for Holy Week, as Saint Paul urges us in the Letter to the Hebrews not to give up hope but to continue the fight, because Christ, the eternal high priest, has instituted a New Covenant that will never pass away, and for our salvation, He has sealed it with His Blood.

The readings for each day of Holy Week, found on the following pages, come from the Office of the Readings, part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church.

02
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Scripture Reading for Palm Sunday

Albert of of Sternberk's pontifical, Strahov Monastery Library, Prague, Czech Republic
Albert of of Sternberk's pontifical, Strahov Monastery Library, Prague, Czech Republic. Fred de Noyelle/Getty Images

Christ, the Final Sacrifice

In the readings for the Fifth Week of Lent, the Church stressed the eternal priesthood of Christ, the High Priest Who never dies. During Holy Week, we see the flip-side, as in this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews: Christ is also the eternal sacrifice. The new covenant in Christ replaces the old. While the sacrifices of the old covenant had to be offered over and over and could not bring those who offered them to sanctity, Christ's sacrifice is offered once for all, and in it, we can all reach perfection.

Hebrews 10:1-18 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things; by the selfsame sacrifices which they offer continually every year, can never make the comers thereunto perfect: For then they would have ceased to be offered: because the worshippers once cleansed should have no conscience of sin any longer: But in them there is made a commemoration of sins every year. For it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats sin should be taken away. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to me: Holocausts for sin did not please thee. Then said I: Behold I come: in the head of the book it is written of me: that I should do thy will, O God.

In saying before, Sacrifices, and oblations, and holocausts for sin thou wouldest not, neither are they pleasing to thee, which are offered according to the law. Then said I: Behold, I come to do thy will, O God: he taketh away the first, that he may establish that which followeth.

In the which will, we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once. And every priest indeed standeth daily ministering, and often offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting, until his enemies be made his footstool. For by one oblation he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

And the Holy Ghost also doth testify this to us. For after that he said: And this is the testament which I will make unto them after those days, saith the Lord. I will give my laws in their hearts, and on their minds will I write them: And their sins and iniquities I will remember no more. Now where there is a remission of these, there is no more an oblation for sin.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

03
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Scripture Reading for Monday of Holy Week

Man thumbing through a Bible
Man thumbing through a Bible. Peter Glass/Design Pics/Getty Images

Faith in Christ Brings New Life

We have an eternal high priest and an eternal sacrifice in Jesus Christ. The Law is no longer imposed externally, as it was in the old covenant, but written on the hearts of those who believe. Now, writes Saint Paul in the Letter to the Hebrews, we must simply persevere in the Faith. When we doubt or draw back, we fall into sin.

Hebrews 10:19-39 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

Having therefore, brethren, a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ; a new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and a high priest over the house of God: Let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (for he is faithful that hath promised), and let us consider one another, to provoke unto charity and to good works: Not forsaking our assembly, as some are accustomed; but comforting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.

For if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins, but a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries. A man making void the law of Moses, dieth without any mercy under two or three witnesses: How much more, do you think he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said: Vengeance belongeth to me, and I will repay. And again: The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But call to mind the former days, wherein, being illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions. And on the one hand indeed, by reproaches and tribulations, were made a gazingstock; and on the other, became companions of them that were used in such sort. For you both had compassion on them that were in bands, and took with joy the being stripped of your own goods, knowing that you have a better and a lasting substance. Do not therefore lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. For patience is necessary for you; that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise.

For yet a little and a very little while, and he that is to come, will come, and will not delay. But my just man liveth by faith; but if he withdraw himself, he shall not please my soul. But we are not the children of withdrawing unto perdition, but of faith to the saving of the soul.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

04
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Scripture Reading for Tuesday of Holy Week

A gold-leaf Bible
A gold-leaf Bible. Jill Fromer/Getty Images

Christ, the Beginning and End of Our Faith

As Easter approaches, Saint Paul's words in the Letter to the Hebrews are timely. We must continue the fight; we must not give up hope. Even when we undergo trials, we should take comfort in the example of Christ, Who died for our sins. Our trials are our preparation for rising to new life with Christ on Easter.

Hebrews 12:1-13 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. For think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds. For you have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin: And you have forgotten the consolation, which speaketh to you, as unto children, saying: My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord; neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by him. For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not correct? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons.

Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh, for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits, and live? And they indeed for a few days, according to their own pleasure, instructed us: but he, for our profit, that we might receive his sanctification.

Now all chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring with it joy, but sorrow: but afterwards it will yield, to them that are exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight steps with your feet: that no one, halting, may go out of the way; but rather be healed.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

05
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Scripture Reading for Wednesday of Holy Week (Spy Wednesday)

Prest With Lectionary
A priest with a lectionary. undefined

Our God Is a Consuming Fire

As Moses approached Mount Sinai, this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, we should approach Mount Zion, our heavenly home. God is a consuming fire, through Whom we are all cleansed, as long as we listen to His Word and progress in holiness. If we turn from Him now, however, having received the revelation of Christ, our punishment will be greater than that of those Israelites who grumbled against the Lord and were forbidden, therefore, from entering the Promised Land.

Hebrews 12:14-29 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

Follow peace with all men, and holiness: without which no man shall see God. Looking diligently, lest any man be wanting to the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up do hinder, and by it many be defiled. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau; who for one mess, sold his first birthright. For know ye that afterwards, when he desired to inherit the benediction, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, although with tears he had sought it.

For you are not come to a mountain that might be touched, and a burning fire, and a whirlwind, and darkness, and storm, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which they that heard excused themselves, that the word might not be spoken to them: For they did not endure that which was said: And if so much as a beast shall touch the mount, it shall be stoned. And so terrible was that which was seen, Moses said: I am frighted, and tremble.

But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, And to the church of the firstborn, who are written in the heavens, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new testament, and to the sprinkling of blood which speaketh better than that of Abel.

See that you refuse him not that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke upon the earth, much more shall not we, that turn away from him that speaketh to us from heaven. Whose voice then moved the earth; but now he promiseth, saying: Yet once more, and I will move not only the earth, but heaven also. And in that he saith, Yet once more, he signifieth the translation of the moveable things as made, that those things may remain which are immoveable.

Therefore receiving an immoveable kingdom, we have grace; whereby let us serve, pleasing God, with fear and reverence. For our God is a consuming fire.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

06
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Scripture Reading for Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday)

Old Bible in Latin
Old Bible in Latin. Myron/Getty Images

Christ, the Source of Our Eternal Salvation

Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) is the day on which Christ instituted the New Testament priesthood. In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, Saint Paul reminds us that Christ is the great high priest, like us in all things but sin. He was tempted, so He can understand our temptation; but being perfect, He was able to offer Himself as the perfect Sacrifice to God the Father. That sacrifice is the source of the eternal salvation of all who believe in Christ.

Hebrews 4:14-5:10 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

Having therefore a great high priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God: let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin. Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.

For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on them that are ignorant and that err: because he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And therefore he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.

So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest: but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.

Who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offering up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence. And whereas indeed he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered: And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation. Called by God a high priest according to the order of Melchisedech.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

07
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Scripture Reading for Good Friday

Old Bible in English
Old Bible in English. Godong/Getty Images

Christ's Blood Opens the Gates of Heaven

Our deliverance is at hand. In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, Saint Paul explains that the New Covenant, like the Old, had to be sealed in blood. This time, however, the blood is not the blood of calves and goats that Moses offered at the foot of Mount Sinai, but the Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, offered on the Cross on Good Friday. Christ is both the Sacrifice and the High Priest; by His death, He has entered Heaven, where He "may appear now in the presence of God for us."

Hebrews 9:11-28 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

But Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation: Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.

For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?

And therefore he is the mediator of the new testament: that by means of his death, for the redemption of those trangressions, which were under the former testament, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, the death of the testator must of necessity come in. For a testament is of force, after men are dead: otherwise it is as yet of no strength, whilst the testator liveth. Whereupon neither was the first indeed dedicated without blood.

For when every commandment of the law had been read by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying: This is the blood of the testament, which God hath enjoined unto you. The tabernacle also and all the vessels of the ministry, in like manner, he sprinkled with blood. And almost all things, according to the law, are cleansed with blood: and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

It is necessary therefore that the patterns of heavenly things should be cleansed with these: but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Jesus is not entered into the holies made with hands, the patterns of the true: but into heaven itself, that he may appear now in the presence of God for us. Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holies, every year with the blood of others: For then he ought to have suffered often from the beginning of the world: but now once at the end of ages, he hath appeared for the destruction of sin, by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: So also Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; the second time he shall appear without sin to them that expect him unto salvation.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

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Scripture Reading for Holy Saturday

St. Chad Gospels at Lichfield Cathedral
St. Chad Gospels at Lichfield Cathedral. Philip Game/Getty Images

Through Faith, We Enter Into Eternal Rest

On Holy Saturday, Christ's Body lies in the tomb, the Sacrifice offered up once for all. The Old Covenant, Saint Paul tells us in this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, has passed away, replaced by the New Covenant in Christ. Just as the Israelites whom the Lord led out of Egypt were denied entrance into the Promised Land because of their lack of faith, we, too, can fall and deprive ourselves of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Hebrews 4:1-13 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

Let us fear therefore lest the promise being left of entering into his rest, any of you should be thought to be wanting. For unto us also it hath been declared, in like manner as unto them. But the word of hearing did not profit them, not being mixed with faith of those things they heard.

For we, who have believed, shall enter into rest; as he said: As I have sworn in my wrath; If they shall enter into my rest; and this indeed when the works from the foundation of the world were finished. For in a certain place he spoke of the seventh day thus: And God rested the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again: If they shall enter into my rest.

Seeing then it remaineth that some are to enter into it, and they, to whom it was first preached, did not enter because of unbelief: Again he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time, as it is above said: To day if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

For if Jesus had given them rest, he would never have afterwards spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a day of rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, the same also hath rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest; lest any man fall into the same example of unbelief.

For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight: but all things are naked and open to his eyes, to whom our speech is.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)