Holy Week is a journey that takes us to the foot of the Cross and beyond. To some this may seem a strange journey to make, but for Christians to participate in Holy Week is to participate in the unfolding drama of Redemption and New Life given us by God in Christ. The journey is marked with special days of devotion, fasting and finally, celebration.
Palm Sunday (March 24)
You are there among the crowd celebrating Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. This day is also known as Passion Sunday because we quickly turn against Jesus as we begin to sense that He is not the messiah we were wanting or expecting. We have our own plans and agendas for our lives. (This is liturgically played out as the Palm Sunday liturgy makes a dramatic shift from triumphantly welcoming Jesus to rejecting Him… watch for it.) It is quite striking how fast we can turn our back on God and walk the other way.
The liturgy goes on to prepare us for what lies ahead as we recite the “Passion,” the story of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus that is recorded in all four of Gospel accounts. This year we participate in the Passion through St. Luke’s recitation of that “Old-Old Story.” (Apologies to Katherine Hankey)
Scripture records that Jesus taught in the temple courts on the first three days of Holy Week adding fuel to the fire.
Maundy Thursday (March 28)
(Maundy is derived from a Latin word meaning Commandment)
This brings you to Jesus’ last evening before His arrest and crucifixion. You are gathered to celebrate the Passover meal with Jesus in an upper room in this ancient city of Jerusalem. Jesus commands you to do two things. First, He commands that you love others as He has loved you (John 13:34). Jesus demonstrates what it means to love by washing your feet, and tells you to do likewise. Jesus also commands that you break bread with your fellow disciples in remembrance of Him, but you become aware that it is more than remembering. Jesus infuses new meaning into the Passover meal. Jesus is offering Himself as the Passover Lamb who is sacrificed for us. The Christian Passover becomes for you and all of us not only what it has always been, a remembrance of the saving acts of God, but also a memorial and an assurance of Jesus’ “Real Presence” with us.
At the Maundy Thursday service, we are obedient in doing both of these commands. We wash one another’s feet and we participate in the wonderful mystery we know as the Lord’s Supper
Good Friday (March 29)
Jesus carrying a cross being pulled along by a rope around His waist… crowds jeering… soldiers doing what they do… Calvary ahead. Were you there when the crucified my Lord? It is the tradition of many Christians on this day to walk the
Way of the Cross with Jesus, also known as the Stations of the Cross. Early Christians who would make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem would walk in the footsteps of Jesus along the route He took as He bore His Cross to Calvary. When access to the Holy Land became either limited or dangerous following the Muslim conquest of the Middle East, churches in Europe would place “stations” along the walls of the nave of the church commemorating the events of Jesus’ journey to the Cross.
Here at Holy Trinity on this day, we walk to the Way of the Cross with Jesus. We gather at noon in the nave of our church and moving from prayer station to prayer station, event to event, until we end up at Calvary with Christ. This is obviously for us a day of fasting and reflection. In the evening at our Good Friday Liturgy, we once again read the Passion Story, as we did on Palm Sunday, but this time through the eyes of St John.
Holy Saturday (March 30)
1 Peter 3:19 tells us that Jesus on Holy Saturday "went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison.” This is known as the “Harrowing of Hell” when the proclamation of the Gospel is made to those who have not and will not otherwise hear the saving message of the Gospel. But for you who walked with Jesus through the events of this week, and watched Him being crucified, it is a day of prayer and contemplation concerning these things. But you know the rest of the story, and wait expectantly.
The Great Vigil of Easter
(Saturday, March 31)
It is now years later after sundown on the eve of the celebration of the greatest event in human history, the Resurrection of our Lord. You gather with other witnesses and believers to celebrate what has become known as the Great Vigil of Easter.
In the early centuries, the Church would gather on the eve of the Great Paschal Feast (Easter) to celebrate a Christian Passover, or Paschal Vigil. This would be done with prayers, readings, singing and baptisms, holding a vigil throughout the night until dawn, at which time the first Eucharist of Easter would be celebrated. The Scriptures read and expounded upon through the
night would recall the mighty acts of God, particularly the culmination of Salvation History in the glorious event of Easter Morning.
Many parts of the Church continue to celebrate this Great Vigil of Easter, but usually in an abbreviated form. Some continue the tradition in the form of Easter sunrise services, but here at Holy Trinity we, along with much of the world-wide Church, celebrate “The Paschal Vigil.” We begin by commemorating the “Light of Christ” that has come into the world.
We light the Paschal Candle and chant the ancient Exsultet, a hymn to the Light of Christ come into the world. We read Scripture culminating in the glorious event of the Resurrection story. We spend a great deal of time in Scripture reading the Story of Creation in Genesis; the Deliverance of Israel in Exodus; the prophets and prophecies on the God’s plan of salvation, New Testament on our participation in Christ’s Death and Resurrection, and finally a recitation on the Resurrection Story, this year from the Gospel according to Luke.
Since the Easter Vigil was a traditional time for baptisms among the early Christians, we will be participating in the baptism of one of God’s newest creations, Jacob Holley. With Jacob and his sponsors, we will be renewing our own baptismal vows on this night. We conclude by celebrating our first Eucharist of Easter. We then process to the parish hall to celebrate an “Agape Feast,” a celebration of the Risen Christ and of our place at the “great banquet table of the Lamb.”
Easter (March 31)
This is the Feast Day of the Lord’s Resurrection, the single greatest celebration of the Christian year and the event to which all of Holy Week has been pointing. Easter is a celebration of the wonders of the Paschal Mystery, that Jesus has overcome death and opened for us the gates to eternal life.
Welcome happy morning
age to age shall say:
Hell today is vanquished,
heaven is won today.
Lo! The dead are living,
God for evermore!
Him their true creator,
all His works adore!
Hymn 179, Hymnal 1982