Holy Week Litugies

by The Rev. Dr. Jason L. Parkin

As we enter Holy Week, we come to the central events that shape our common faith as Christian people. The heart of the liturgical year is the Paschal Mystery, the dying and rising of Jesus. Our participation in the saving acts of God finds its deepest expression in this great Week. Our celebration of Holy Week is the occasion above all others when we stand before the awesome mystery of redemption, bringing to God all that we are both as individuals and as a community of faith at this moment in our lives.

The rites of this week are based upon sources and practices stretching back to the fourth century in the Church at Jerusalem, and even earlier.  On Palm Sunday, for example, we process into church singing a jubilant hymn just as joyous crowds waved palm branches and strewed their garments in Jesus' path as he entered the holy city.*  On Maundy Thursday, following a meal reminiscent of the Last Supper, we wash one another's feet, echoing Jesus' commandment to his disciples to love one another as he loved them, the mandatus novum, or new commandment, that he uttered while bathing their feet.  On Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian year, St. John's story of the Passion is sung in a beautiful and poignant setting.  And at the Great Vigil-the preeminent celebration of the year, and the first proclamation of the Lord's Resurrection-we begin the liturgy in complete darkness and light the Paschal Candle, the symbol of the Resurrection and the light that spreads into our lives;  and, through sacred scripture, song and psalm, recount the history of God's saving presence in our lives and world.

Yet during Holy Week, we do not merely mimic the ancient rites of earlier Christians.  Far more significant  is the reminder that, like our ancestors, we share in the celebration of Holy Week so that we might once again find ourselves immersed in God's grace.  It is from this week that all the other weeks of our life take their meanings. 

Each of the liturgies within Holy Week contains its own unique beauty and power.  Come, take your place in the entire journey. 

*Please note that, weather permitting, the 9:00 and 11:15 Palm Sunday services will begin outside-on the front lawn at 9:00 and in the Columbarium Courtyard at 11:15-for the distribution and blessing of the palms before the procession into the church.