Sunday, March 24, 2013

Experiencing Holy Week: A thumbnail guide

We begin again the descent into the desolation of Holy Week, and beyond to the new life beyond that is Easter. Today is Palm Sunday, and I hope you will join us if you can at St. Paul's Memorial Church.

This is the most spiritually moving and intense week of the Christian calendar.

As I have done in years past, I will post here about my experience of Holy Week as it unfolds for me. I pray you will be open to the presence of God, and to the surprises as they unfold for you.

Here is a thumbnail guide to the events of Holy Week at St. Paul’s Memorial Church:

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Palm Sunday begins outside with the waving of palms and the great triumphant entry by Jesus into Jerusalem. We will be hearing the story of the arrest of Jesus through the eyes of Gospel of Luke, and the story will end in the courtyard when Peter denies knowing Jesus.

Monday of Holy Week, we will hold noon Prayers for Peace and a reading of the names of all the soldiers, sailors and Marines who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last year, and conclude with a Holy Eucharist at 12:30 pm.

Stations of the Cross – Each weekday in Holy Week we will have meditations led by Joe Lenow at the “Stations of the Cross” at 6:30 pm in the nave (the main church).

Tuesday of Holy Week, we will hold our 12:15 pm Holy Eucharist.

Wednesday of Holy Week is marked by a 12:15 pm Eucharist and Evening Prayer at 5:30 pm, and our community night supper.

Maundy Thursday begins the Great Three Days, or Easter Triduum. We will have a simple Eucharist at 12:15 pm. Then in the evening, we will have the traditional foot washing when we remember how Jesus became a servant of his followers, and all are invited to come forward to have their feet washed by the clergy. Our own Emily Williams Guffey, who is a first-year seminarian, will be our guest preacher.

The first day continues at noon on Good Friday. From noon to 3pm, we will hear short homilies offered by members of the congregation, including some of our University students, who will reflect on the scenes and people who experienced the death of Christ. Their reflections will be interspersed with prayers and music.

Private confessions – The clergy will be available from 3pm to 6pm to hear private confessions in the Chapel.

At 7 pm, we will say the prayers for Good Friday and distribute Communion bread that we have reserved from Maundy Thursday and kept in the Chapel. At 8 p.m., we sit in the darkness, with candles dimmed, one at a time, and hear readings from the Book of Lamentations, in the solemn observance of Tenebrae, a Latin word meaning “shadows.” It is among the most moving services of the year.

On Holy Saturday morning, at 9 a.m., we assemble in the chapel for a brief time for the prayers marking the second day, when Christ descends into Hell itself to open the gates wide and let everyone out.

The Great Vigil of Easter – On Saturday evening at 7:30 pm, after sundown comes our first opportunity to celebrate the third day of Easter: The Resurrection – and the most opulent worship of the entire year. We light a fire outside, and bring the light of the Paschal candle into the church. The Paschal Candle leads our procession.

Inside the church, sitting in the dim light, we hear again the story of creation. And then with lights on, and bells ringing, we declare the Resurrection – we loudly declare Christ has Risen! – and we experience again the joy of Easter and our first Eucharist of the Easter season. Bring a bell and come join us.

On Easter Sunday morning we gather in the sunlight, our Lent completed and our new life in Christ begun once again. Our services Easter Sunday are at 8 am, 9:15 am and 11:15 am and 5:30 pm.

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