The High Holy Days of the Christian Faith
Christianity is the faith of resurrection: the mystery upon mystery that out of death arises life. We celebrate this mystery through remembering and reliving Jesus’ passion—his suffering and death—during our worship in Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with the return of light and life in the dark hours of the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday morning.
Palm and Passion Sunday April 10, 10.15 am
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday when Jesus enters Jerusalem to the joyous shouts and acclamation of the crowd. We meet in the Parish Hall to begin our march of song and hosanna, celebrating Jesus as king.
Palm Sunday is also Passion Sunday, and having welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem our liturgy takes an abrupt turn, just as the crowds did 2000 years ago. In the Passion narrative from the Gospel according to St. Luke we hear Jesus’ confrontation with religious leaders, his arrest, trial, torture, and execution. We remember that we are the crowd, that we are all complicit in the evil in the world that destroys goodness and condemns the innocent.
Triduum: The Heart of Holy Week
“Triduum” is the name for the great three days of Holy Week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Triduum ends with the Great Vigil of Easter, the holiest night of the church year, which ushers in the morning of glorious Easter Sunday. It can be challenging to enter fully into these three days. We are often consumed by a world that increasingly claims holy days as work days, and provides ceaseless diversion and distraction. To whatever extent you can, set aside these three days to live as fully as possible into the Paschal (Easter) mystery. This mystery takes us from a time of despair and dashed hopes into new life, abiding love and abundant mercy. We will pray prayers that have been on the lips of Christians for two thousand years; we will hear and savor scripture that has sustained the hearts of the faithful through the ages; we will give celebration, praise and glory, offering our very best to God.
Maundy Thursday Liturgy: April 14, 6:00 pm
Maundy Thursday (from the Latin mandatum—to command) brings us together to recall Jesus’ final meal before his death, and to hear again Jesus’ command to his followers: “Love one another as I have loved you.” These words follow Jesus’ humble spirit and gracious act of love as he washed the feet of his disciples. Jesus showed us that his path of glory is the humility of the servant.
After Jesus had given his followers his commandment to love each other they went into the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus’ followers fell asleep as he prayed for strength and courage to submit to God’s will. First, we will strip the altar and remove all the materials that ornament and serve our sanctuary, ending with the extinguishing of the sanctuary flame. Following this, we will have the opportunity to keep vigil with Jesus during the Watch in our sanctuary in a Garden of Repose, a quiet space set up in our sanctuary. There some may remain to pray, meditate, read, reflect, listen, and ponder what it means to keep watch through this lonely night, anticipating the violence and sorrow that is to come. You can sign up to participate—an hour or two—during the night and into the morning.
Note that there is no end to the Maundy Thursday liturgy. We merely pause, as did Jesus, waiting for the challenge and the heartbreak of Good Friday.
Good Friday Liturgy: April 15, 6.00 pm
On Good Friday we gather to hear the Passion Narrative from the Gospel according to St. John. Our Solemn Collects of that day are prayers for the many needs of this broken and sorrowing world, and our Good Friday offering goes to the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the prayerful hope that reconciliation and peace can be found in the place that Jesus lived—a place to which our hearts and minds are always turning. We also say together anthems to glorify the cross, anthems that ponder the mystery that an instrument of torture, humiliation, and death could, through the resurrection, become the vehicle for salvation of all. Our worship this night is humble and muted. We do not have the music of the organ, but we will raise our voices together to praise God as we continue our vigil.
Good Friday is one of two days when Christians are instructed to fast (the other is Ash Wednesday). If you are able, try fasting from sundown on Maundy Thursday to sundown on Good Friday.
Good Friday is also a day when the Eucharist is not celebrated, although many congregations have communion using reserved sacrament. We will observe an austere Good Friday without the solace of reserved sacrament, remembering that for the first followers of Jesus there was no such consolation and hope. We will live into their experience for one more day. And again, there is no end to the liturgy this night, just waiting.
Holy Saturday Liturgy: April 16, 9.30 am
The Church has a short liturgy on Holy Saturday, without celebration of the Eucharist, as Jesus remains dead in the stone tomb. Some will extend their fast through Friday into Saturday. Again, we keep vigil, waiting….
Holy Saturday Easter Vigil: April 16, 8.30 pm
The Great Vigil of Easter includes the service that recounts the history of salvation, the victory of life over death, and in which anthems and prayers are sung and shared throughout the Christian world and over the centuries. This is not the right year for St. Andrew’s to have a full Easter Vigil. However, Rev. Jen is going to be in the sanctuary at 8.30pm to light the first fire of Easter, to sing the Exultet, to read scripture telling of the history of salvation, and to savor the first moments of the raising of Jesus from the dead and the glory of life from death. You are most welcome to join—and where two or three are gathered, He will be there, and we will celebrate together. The new flame of Easter will be kept burning through the night in a tall votive, and you will have the opportunity to take that fire home with you on Saturday night or on Sunday morning after the Sunday Easter service
Easter Sunday Morning Festal Eucharist: April 17, 10.15 am
Triduum ends and Easter begins as the sun fades and the Pascal candle is lit at the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday evening. Light and life return to the world “like wheat that springeth green.” On Sunday morning we gather in the beautiful light of Easter to celebrate creation made new, a celebration that extends through the 50 Great Days of Easter. “Alleluia! Alleluia!” will ring through our church every Sunday in our Eucharist liturgy and Easter hymns. We will decorate the sanctuary with an Easter egg tree made of the pysanky eggs dyed during the week, and will share the flame of Easter light for you to take home. Today is a day of feasting, celebration, new life, joy, and thanksgiving.
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Oldstone-Moore, Rector
Clip art from http://www.servicioskoinonia.org/cerezo/dibujosC/25vigiliapascualC.jpg
Text inspired and adapted from St. John Episcopal Dallas, March 23, 2018 Parish News, and their source was The Three Days to Save ©1991, 2009 Archdiocese of Chicago, www.LTP.org. Original text written by Gabe Huck.