(Image from liturgy.com.nz)
Holy Week, my favorite week of the entire year, is upon us. Starting with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter, it's like a sandwich of joy on either side and much pain and suffering as the "meat." Without Christ's suffering and death, the "sandwich" -- the joy -- would be empty and meaningless.
Palm Sunday was celebrated a little at Lake Murray, unfortunately without palms. But Seth read a Gospel account of the Triumphal Entry. The real celebration for me was attending the Lenten Concert at the San Diego Mission (see post below) in which beautiful music was performed and baskets of palms were at the doors. I brought two home to make into a cross and place behind one of my icons, waiting for next Ash Wednesday to be burned and used for ashing crosses on our foreheads.
But the best celebrations of Holy Week start tonight. Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity is hosting a Seder meal with about 20 people attending to read through the Haggadah and observe the amazing connections between Passover and Easter. This will be the fourth Seder meal I've participated in, the first being at Lake Murray a few years ago, and the rest with the Anglicans. It's an incredible time of recognizing symbolism throughout the Passover story that relates to Christ as Messiah. I have always left Seder meals marvelling at God's wonderful plans for His people, foretold in the first Passover as Moses and the Israelites fled Pharoah and completed in Christ. I just have to watch the wine -- with the glasses being refilled four times, I'll have to ask for small pourings. We'll also share a potluck meal, with turkey in addition to lamb, which is not a favorite of mine. I'm very much looking forward to the Seder meal tonight.
The Triduum, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, finish the Lenten Season. If you would like to read more about the Triduum, check out this link: Triduum. Maundy Thursday comes first. "Maundy" means "commandment" and refers to Christ's command to His disciples that they (and we) "love one another as Christ has loved us." At Victoria House, the parsonage, we celebrate the institution of the Lord's Supper as well as the footwashing Jesus did for His disciples. The footwashing almost always brings me to tears as Father Acker washes everyone's feet (one foot). The humility and intimacy of the act reminds me how much Jesus did for His disciples and for all of us, modeling the role of servant-leader for us. I always feel like echoing Peter's refusal to Christ when Father Acker approaches me with the basin, pitcher, and towel: "No, you may not demean youself and wash my feet!" It's a touching, a moving act that never ceases to amaze me.
On Good Friday we meet with five or six other churches at the Catholic Church in Alpine, Queen of Angels, for the ecumenical Stations of the Cross. Along Queen of Angels' western fence line are fourteen wooden crosses set among trees. At each Station, a pastor from one of the participating churches (Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Community, etc.) reads the Scripture for the Station, and while we walk to the next Station, we sing a verse of "Were You There" that relates to that Station. Father Acker and his guitar students (this year including J) provide accompaniment on acoustic guitars. Usually over a hundred people participate, praying through the Stations, listening to the Scriptures, reliving Christ's journey to the Cross. It's a beautiful and sobering service, one that brings us to the Tomb in preparation for the joy of the Resurrection.
On Good Friday evening we'll meet again at Victoria House for the Good Friday liturgy. Communion is served with bread and wine reserved from Maundy Thursday, the one day of the year that a full Communion Service is not practiced. We also pray before a crucifix, remembering Jesus' agonizing death that conquered sin and Satan once for all. The most amazing (and convicting) portion of the service involves reading the Gospel account of Jesus' passion and crucifixion aloud. Several readers do most of the reading, taking the parts of Jesus, Pilate, the Gospeller (narrator), etc. The rest of us take the part of the crowd, and when we cry out, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" and "We have no king but Caesar!" it reminds me so strongly that the sin of each of us put Christ on that cross, suffering and dying for us. And calling as the crowd did,"His blood be upon our heads and upon the heads of our children" (Matt. 27:25) sends shivers up my spine and makes me weep with sorrow and contrition. It's an emotional reading of Scripture that takes us right back to Jerusalem and Golgotha, right to the very foot of the Cross.
On Holy Saturday we meet at Victoria House later, after dark, and light the Paschal candle which is fitted with five small nails, one for each wound of Christ. The candle is lit and carefully brought into the darkened parsonage, each of us bearing a candle that is lit along our path. We read the Scriptures and pray the prayers by the light of these candles, affirming our baptismal vows and enjoying the first Evensong of Easter. We finish with a celebration as Easter has come and Lent is officially over. Sherry, cake, and other wonderful treats are provided as the Fast is over and the celebration of the Resurrection that lasts 50 days until Pentecost arrives.
We'll be celebrating Easter at Lake Murray, although my desire would be to attend both services at Blessed Trinity (an outdoor service in the park at 8:30) and Lake Murray (with an Easter brunch between services). I miss Easter with First Presbyterian downtown where we sang the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah with church bells ringing out joyfully to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. It's the most joyful day of the entire Christian Year, and I think such a day demands some real celebration! In the past, Lake Murray has focused on evangelizing guests who come to church only once or twice a year, but Easter should primarily be a celebration for believers, for Christ's Bride, the Church. Bells should be ringing. Everyone should be singing "Christ the Lord Has Risen Today!" and other joyful songs about the Resurrection.
I love reading about how the Orthodox celebrate the Triduum -- they actually stay awake all night Holy Saturday as a church, reading Scripture and worshipping to a very, very long liturgy, all the way until daybreak. Then Lent ends, and the celebrating begins! The Orthodox fast from many foods during Pascha (Easter): dairy, eggs, sweets, meat, wine, olive oil, etc., so breaking the fast together with Pascha Eggs and a huge meal is how they celebrate after their Resurrection service at daybreak. You can read more about the Orthodox celebrations of Lent and Pascha at Frederica Mathewes-Green's web site and at this site: Pascha.
So I wish you a blessed and deeply meaningful Holy Week and a joyful celebration of the Resurrection of Christ our Lord and Saviour. If you're local and would like to attend any of the Anglican services with me, just drop me an e-mail. We'd love to have you come.