Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The lull in Holy Week and the rock of our rescue

Tuesday in Holy Week feels like the lull before the storm. Palm Sunday is behind us, but the Great Three Days is not yet here. Perhaps my chief accomplishment of the day was cleaning up the Paschal Candle and attaching the "2010" gold lettering to it. It will be lit next on Saturday evening at the Great Vigil of Easter.

On Tuesday, we had a lengthy "walk through" with key participants for each of the services beginning with Maundy Thursday. There are many details to remember, and some of it is still evolving.

The Rev. Dr. Ann Willms, our associate rector, was the celebrant at our noonday Eucharist. She spoke of how the apostle Paul "boasted" of the Cross. It got me thinking about the sermons I have yet to write. Holy Week is first and last about the death of Jesus long ago, and what that means to us now. It is about how Jesus walks with us into our own valley of the shadow of death and brings us out into the light of Easter and into the place of salvation.

Recently I've been using Robert Alter's translation of the psalms in my morning prayers. His language has sharpened my understanding of the meaning of salvation. Psalm 95 is used each Friday in Lent to open Morning Prayer, and I've been using Alter's version rather than the prayer book version. Here is the opening line from Alter's translation of Psalm 95:
Come, let us sing gladly to the LORD, let us shout out to the rock our rescue.
Rescue. That word is usually rendered "salvation" in English translations. But rescue is closer to the Hebrew meaning of salvation, and Alter's translation captures it perfectly. The verb rescue is active; it comes with the hope that God will find us and snatch us away from whatever harms or hurts us. Rescue does not have to wait until the afterlife, but comes to us now. That is the boast of the Cross.

Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be
whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept
joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the
glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Liturgical notes: Some have asked about the use of red on Palm Sunday and the days of Holy Week. Red is the traditional color for days remembering martyrs, and because Jesus is truly the Church's first martyr it is appropriate to mark the week with red. Red has long been used throughout the Episcopal Church in Holy Week, and again on Pentecost. The red chasuble (the priestly tunic) used on Palm Sunday was made by The Rev. Deacon Anne Scupholme last year as a gift to St. Paul's. We will put away the red on Maundy Thursday when we strip the altar and store all the linens and clerical stoles until the Great Vigil of Easter when we will use white.

Book reference: The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, by Robert Alter, 2007, W.W. Norton & Co.

Postcard art of Glacier Point, Yosemite

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