As we begin the 4th week of Lent, it’s time to lift our eyes toward Golgatha and prepare for Holy Week. This guide is meant to help you walk with Jesus during the week of his crucifixion, and to participate with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the ancient traditions which the Church has practiced since the time of the Apostles.
HOLY WEEK begins on Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. First, we hear the Gospel narrative of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Then we use palm fronds and palm crosses to remind us of the palms that were waved and strewn in Jesus’ honor and of the Cross to which he was destined.
Once the procession is over, the mood changes as we hear the Passion story (the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and Crucifixion). The crowd that greets Jesus on Palm Sunday shouting ‘Hosanna becomes the crowd shouting ‘Crucify him’ by the end of Holy Week. Recognizing this shift may make us ask whether our relationship to Jesus is just as fickle. Do we by turns applaud him and, by our behavior and thoughts, crucify him again and again?
The climax of Holy Week is the Triduum (Latin for three days): Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Each day has its own special and moving liturgy.
Maundy Thursday takes its name from an altered form of mandatum est, Latin for ‘he commanded’. John’s Gospel records that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet when he ate with them for the last time and commanded them to do the same. For this reason, we have a symbolic foot washing at the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday. We also give thanks for Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.
When the Eucharist is over, two notable things happen. First, some of the sacrament is taken to the Chapel, which has been specially decorated to represent the Garden of Gethsemane. Second, the altar is stripped of its furnishing, which reminds us of the way in which Christ’s tormentors stripped him of his clothes before the Crucifixion.
There will be a Vigil in the Chapel before the ‘Altar of Repose’ (so called because the sacrament reposes there). Doing this reminds us of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he had to decide whether to obey his Father’s will and submit to arrest and death or run away.
Good Friday is the most somber day of the Church’s Year and, with the Easter celebration of the Resurrection, the most important. The most ancient way of marking Good Friday is with a service (the Solemn Liturgy) in the middle of the day when the story of Jesus’ Crucifixion is read dramatically.
The Solemn Liturgy at St. Andrew’s will begin at 6 p.m. After the reading of the Passion, there is the Veneration of the Cross in which participants are encouraged to come forward and kiss the feet of Christ on the cross; and we will also receive communion from some of the sacrament which has been kept from the night before.
To mark Jesus’ agony and death, there is no celebration of the Eucharist between Maundy Thursday and the Easter Vigil.
The Easter Vigil and Eucharist are the most joyous and important services of the year. At St. Andrew’s, Easter Vigil and Eucharist begins at 10 a.m. in the Courtyard. The Easter liturgy begins with readings about God’s ‘saving acts’ from the creation, through the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, until the time of Jesus’ victory over evil and death.
The principal symbols used in this service are light, fire and water. We will light a bonfire in the courtyard to symbolize the victory over death that is brought about by Christ’s resurrection. From this bonfire we will light the Paschal (Easter) Candle, and all the people follow the light of Christ into the sanctuary.
After the congregation processes into the church, the baptismal water in the font is blessed with the Paschal Candle and all the people then renew their baptismal vows and are sprinkled with water from the font. Then, the greatest feast in the church’s calendar continues with a Sung Eucharist.
As further signs of the Resurrection, there will be special music, the church will be filled with flowers, and we’ll share a celebratory meal together after service.
We hope you will join us during Holy Week this year as we celebrate the hope of all men, the joy of our salvation, and the victory of the Resurrection!
This blog is about living out our Christian faith in the Anglican tradition. It includes homilies, Sunday services, and commentaries from our leadership.