Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts on Holy Week

I received a call yesterday from a reporter from one of the local newspapers and he was doing a story about Easter worship and asked me to tell him two things about Easter worship at Peace. One – what was important and unique about Easter worship; and two, what special symbols will be included in our Easter worship?

What is important and unique about Easter worship? Well the first thing to say is that every Sunday is a celebration of Easter. One of the reasons we worship on Sundays is because it is the 1st day of the week, when the women went to the tomb to find that Jesus was no longer there. But Easter Sunday does stand apart from other Sundays in importance and meaning mainly because it is so closely linked to Holy Week. In order to truly understand Easter, one must enter into and experience Good Friday. Without Good Friday, Easter is trite; and without Easter, Good Friday is just morbid. But when experienced together we have the opportunity to enter into God’s saving work in Jesus and catch a glimpse of the depths of God’s love and grace as reflected in the events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.

Historically the church has always celebrated Easter as part of the “Three Holy Days” (or “Triduum”). These three days are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. On Maundy Thursday we remember and experience Jesus’ last supper, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and the arrest with Judas’ betrayal. This service include confession and absolution, Holy Communion and the stripping of the altar. Good Friday services includes the reading of the passion of St. John as the darkness comes upon us and it includes the bidding prayer and verses of supplication.

The first service of Easter was always celebrated at the Easter Vigil late on Saturday evening. This service includes the rekindling of the light of Christ in the darkness, the remembrance of God’s saving history (as recorded in the Old Testament), Affirmation of Baptism and the first festival Eucharist of Easter. At Peace most of those elements will be a part of our sunrise service on Easter Sunday morning (Service of Light, Affirmation of Baptism and the 1st Eucharist of Easter). The remembrance of God’s saving history will be a part of the Saturday evening service of silence and prayer to be held at 6:00. This service is NOT an Easter service. We will sit in the darkness in the back of the church. There will be no music and no communion. The service will include readings of some of the great stories from the Old Testament and prayers and silence. We will then depart in silence.

Finally, I was asked about a special symbol. Well, my response to the reporter was that the most important symbol of Easter is the celebration of Holy Communion – the Eucharist. This Sacrament is the most important symbol and sign of God’s love and grace extended to us through the miracle of Easter. Through Holy Communion we again receive bread and wine as a sign of God’s love and presence “for you!” Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter!

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