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Holy Week is our opportunity to walk the Way of the Cross with Jesus, starting with the Triumphal Entry of Palm Sunday, when the people of Jerusalem were crying, "Hosanna! Blessed be He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" and ending with the rolling of the stone to close the tomb in which Jesus' body, beaten beyond recognition, was lovingly placed to wait over the Sabbath and be properly laid to rest on the first day of the week. The events that occurred between the high excitement of Jesus' entry and the solemn silence of the tomb is the drama of Holy Week.
However, it's difficult to attend a non-liturgical church on Palm Sunday. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was not read in the church service; instead, the wedding at Cana was the featured reading from God's Word. Palm Sunday was mentioned as the service began and we sang a few songs entitled "Hosanna," but that was it. The sermon was on Galatians 6, and not a palm was to be seen. It felt like any other Sunday...which is, in my opinion, a weakness in the evangelical churches. We have an opportunity to relive the Scriptures during Holy Week, to walk in them and make them more real to our 21st century sensibilities, and we often miss out.
So I was thrilled to be invited to the Music of the Lenten Season Concert, presented by the Choirs of the Mission San Diego de Alcala (California's oldest church) and St. Michael's Parish, Poway. Two friend of mine, former choir members from Lake Murray, sing in the Mission Choir, and it was a lovely afternoon. I even came home with palms to make into crosses. :)
The music varied from hymns to Mozart and Schubert, but my favorite--the one that brought me to tears--was their simple but powerful performance of "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." The deep organ and the beautiful voices raised in harmony with the joyous birdsong joining in from the doors and windows opened to the afternoon sunshine was irrepressibly glorious.
Tonight, on Holy Monday, I attended the annual Messianic Seder hosted by Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. The Seder was lovely, but I've learned my lesson about not filling up the wine glasses too full because we have to empty them four times over the course of the dinner. But the most intriguing parts are when we realize how Jesus instituted the Last Supper while doing the Seder, breaking the Afilkomen as "this is My Body" and drinking from the Cup of Elijah as "this is My Blood of the New Covenant." It was wonderful and so revelatory as we celebrated the Passover together.
Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday will pass quietly and prayerfully. Then Maundy Thursday will come--one of my favorite Holy Days. "Maundy" means "commandment" and refers to Jesus' commandment to His disciples to "Love one another." Wouldn't the world be a far, far better place if only we obeyed this simple yet profoundly complex command more often? Emulating Jesus, Father Acker ties a linen towel around his waist and washes one of the feet of every person who attends. This job--washing the feet of guests--was the work of the lowest servant in the household. In Jesus' day, everyone wore open sandals, and after walking about all day in the dust, dirt, mud, and animal leavings, their feet were pretty disgusting. But Jesus showed His disciples how to love one another by taking on this lowest and most despised job in the entire household.
It brings me to tears to have my foot washed, then have the pastor, kneeling on the floor, kiss my foot and thank me for my "service to our Lord." It's humbling for Father Acker, yet even more humbling for us. I now totally understand Simon Peter pulling his foot away and not letting Jesus wash his feet at first. How can I watch my friend and mentor be humbled, on his knees, washing my dirty, stinking feet? I want to say, "No, this isn't your place!" But instead, I force myself to sit still, accept his act of service, and thank him afterward.
On Maundy Thursday we also celebrate the Institution of the Lord's Supper...remembering how Jesus shifted the usual Passover meal into a declaration of His position as Messiah, as Savior of the World. It's also powerful...very much so.
At noon on Good Friday we attend the ecumenical Biblical Stations of the Cross at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Alpine. More than one hundred Christians, Catholics and Protestants, walk the 14 stations set up in the side gardens of the churchyard. At each six-foot high wooden cross, one of the pastors reads a passage of Scripture, then Father Acker, our son Jonathan, and another guitar student, Nick, play "Were You There" with acoustic guitars, and we sing a verse that corresponds to the Scriptures just read. We don't speak at all, other than an opening prayer, reading God's Word, and singing the song. After the final cross, one of the pastors prays a short benediction, and we silently file to our cars, our minds and hearts weighted with Jesus' sufferings and sacrifice.
My favorite liturgy of the entire year is the Holy Saturday Vigil. Following the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the incense, we walk into the darkened church, slowly lighting a few candles at a time until all hold a lit candle. Then we pray and read God's Word together before celebrating the First Evensong of Easter.
So that's what has occurred and what is still ahead for this Holy Week. The Collect for Palm Sunday is a glorious one, and the new Book of Common Prayer 2011 contains Collects and Scripture readings for every day in Holy Week.
The Sixth Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday
ALMIGHTY and eternal Father, who in your tender love for humanity, sent your Son Jesus Christ as a man to dwell among us and in mortal flesh to suffer death upon the cross, so that all people might learn true humility; In your mercy, grant that we may follow him in his sufferings and share in his redemption; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Ref: Phil 2.4-8; 3.9-10; Heb 12.3)
Phil 2.5-11; Matt 26-27 or 27.1-54; Ps 22.1-21; Zech 9.9-12
So I wish you all a blessed and deeply-meaningful Holy Week as we walk in Jesus' footsteps through this week of high drama leading to the glorious Resurrection of our Savior!!!!