This Sunday begins Holy Week, and while it should be apparent from the very name, Holy Week is the most sacred time of year for Christians. We pay particular importance to the latter part of the week, Maundy Thursday through Easter Day, but that doesn’t mean the first part of the week should be overlooked.
We begin with Palm Sunday. This year (weather permitting, of course) we will gather on the lawn along Washington Avenue, inside the black wrought iron fence. We have in the past used Daffin Park, but we always worry about crossing that intersection, so this seems safer. There we will bless and distribute the palms and begin the liturgy. At this point, our focus is on Christ’s entry into Jerusalem - we are exuberant and hopeful. As we process into the church, we will stop the procession for a prayer that marks a change in the mood of the day. We finish the procession still with palms, but at this point we should start to realize that underneath the chants of “Hosannah!” lies the shout “Crucify him!” No other liturgy in the year has this sudden shift, and I trust we will pay attention to it.
Monday through Wednesday we will gather at 7pm in the sanctuary - that space inside the altar rail - for Eucharist. These services are simple and fairly informal, without music or fanfare. They are part of our weeklong procession to the cross and give us glimpses into this significant portion of the life of Jesus.
Maundy Thursday is the day we celebrate the gift of the Lord’s Supper, of Holy Communion. It is in some ways the most joyful moment in Holy Week but, at the end, one of the most somber as well. We leave the Lord’s table and follow him into the garden to await the difficult times ahead. At St. Michael’s we follow the custom of washing one another’s feet, as our Lord commanded us to do. Remember he didn’t suggest or encourage; he commanded us - “as I have washed your feet, you also are to wash one another’s.” This service also begins at 7pm, but we sit in our normal seats in the nave (the area with the pews.) Although, if you wanted to sit down front, regardless of where your normal seat is, that would be lovely. After the service you are invited to stay an keep watch in the Gardner Room, where we will have reserve the elements of Communion for Good Friday.
On Good Friday we have three services, one at 12 noon and another at 7pm. We hear the Passion Gospel read again, and we sit at the foot of the cross. It is a difficult day, but our presence on this day is our gift to our Lord for what he has done for us. At 6:00pm we have Stations of the Cross.
This year we will hold a service on Holy Saturday that we have not done before, at least not for quite some time. That service will be the subject of next week’s post.
Finally we arrive at Easter Day, the Day of Resurrection. This year we are doing something different here as well. The Great Vigil of Easter begins in the dark at 6:00am. We will gather (again weather permitting) in the same place we did on Palm Sunday, to kindle the new fire in the darkness. Then we process into the church by candlelight to hear in Holy Scripture the work of redemption rough by God throughout the ages. As the sun comes up, the lights come on, and we welcome with joy the resurrection of our Savior.
Breakfast follows the service in Patton Hall, so please bring something yummy to share. Following our meal together, we will have an Easter Egg Hunt on the grounds of the church, and then at last, our 10:30 celebration of Eucharist. All our lives as Christians find their meaning in the events of this week. While we like to say that Christians are “Easter People,” we are really “Holy Week AND Easter People.” I hope you will take part this coming week as much as you are able.