Holy Week and Easter

Holy Week and Easter
Maundy Thursday: 6:00 p.m.
Good Friday: 12:00 and 6:00 p.m.
Holy Saturday: 7:30 p.m.
Easter Sunday: 8:00 and 10:30

The above schedule tells the time of events. What no schedule can convey is the intense reality of what we do, as a community of Jesus’ followers. Yes, Easter is glorious, but essentially superficial if we have not lived through the awesome, terrible events that precede it.

Rather than merely “re-enacting” historical events, we are proclaiming that what happened more than 2,000 years ago is still relevant now, that we, too, are part of the story. We are people with the same needs, the same struggles, the same hunger for the reality of God as those who lived through the events we are entering through our liturgy.

On Maundy Thursday, with some embarrassment, we symbolically respond to Jesus’ New Commandment (Mandatum, the Latin word from which we derive the word “Maundy” and “mandate”) to “love one another as I have loved you”. He took on the most menial job to make this point – washing his followers’ dirty feet. We swallow our discomfort with serving and being served in such a way – lay aside a little of our self-protection, and get a glimpse of Jesus’ way of loving.

He gave us the gift of an ordinary meal made rich with eternal meaning when he took the bread, blessed, broke and gave it to us with the command to do the same thing knowing that his body is broken and given for us. He gave us wine, which he also blessed, commanding us to remember his blood that is shed for us. He showed us the ends to which Love is willing to go for the Beloved. The washing of the feet and the giving of bread and wine are not two separate actions, but all of a piece with how Jesus loves us and how we are to love each other and those we meet.

The awesome loneliness of Jesus’ final struggle – his fully human terror of what was to come – is remembered as we move into the unlighted church and watch as the altar is stripped and all that enhances the beauty of our church is removed. We remember that his disciples, also confused, terrified and exhausted, found refuge in sleep as Jesus fought his solitary battle, wrestling in prayer with his fears and doubts. We know our own kinship with them as we go to the Chapel, to the “Altar of Repose”, and try to keep watch for one hour. The story continues as we walk silently into the night, leaving Jesus as they did. It is humbling to know our kinship with Jesus’ followers so long ago.

On Good Friday, we continue our journey as we walk the way of the Cross. At Noon, we will symbolically follow in Jesus’ steps from his struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane through his trial, crucifixion and death. In the evening, we will re-enter the story again, and re-live his betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion and death. We will join the crowds who shouted “Crucify him”, knowing that there are times when we have felt betrayed by God whose ways of being with us can seem too challenging; who won’t wave an almighty arm and make everything better. We will admit to the doubts and disillusionments we endure that can leave us hurting, wondering what the horrible death of a single human being more than 2,000 years ago really has to do with us. Yet there is hope. We are nourished by the wine and bread that was saved from the feast where we received the command to love one another. That, too, we carry with us as we leave in silence.

On Holy Saturday, we gather again, meeting in darkness. A sudden flare of light as the New Fire flares forth is our first glimpse of hope. As the deacon carries the Paschal Candle and three time sings “The Light of Christ” and we respond “Thanks be to God”, the light begins to spread from candle to candle, from person to person. The Exultet, a great song of praise and thanksgiving is sung, then we hear again the great stories of God’s actions through the centuries. The darkness continues to roll back as the stone guarding Jesus’ tomb was rolled back and we rejoice in Resurrected Life bursting forth with lights and singings and the exuberant ringing of bells. Once again, after weeks of being lost to us, the great praise ALLELUIA! is sung and we enter into the great feast of Life and Hope that is Easter.

The celebration continues on Easter Sunday with all the glory, joy and beauty of what is known as the Queen of Seasons, the Feast of Feasts.

Come and walk with us through the whole of the great story of God’s intense love for and total presence with us. Walk with us through confusion, loss, grief, doubt, fear and loneliness. Walk with us through darkness into the Light of Resurrection and new life.

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