Thursday, April 6, 2017

Holy Week, A Journey With Jesus

Holy Week, A Journey With Jesus

For many Christians around the world, the eight days, beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Day are the most holy and powerfully spiritual days of the entire year. I pray that reflection on this journey will help us all strengthen our faith and open our hearts more and more to God’s presence in our lives. The whole purpose of the week is for us to remember and rejoice in our relationship with God and God’s people by participating in the events of the last week in Jesus’ life.

The week begins with the somewhat ambiguous double commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem combined with a reading of the Passion Gospel as a preview of the week to come. Holding Palms, we proclaim, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

Then we pray for God’s presence during the coming week:

"Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of Our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

We celebrate with joy and music and parades and Holy Communion before hearing the reading of Jesus’ celebration of the Passover with his disciples, followed by his betrayal and execution. Through it all, we solemnly pray for ourselves, the church and the world as we enter into the mystery of the week to come.

On Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. we will celebrate the Passover meal as Jews have done for centuries so that we can gain a better understanding of our own faith through the practices of Jesus and his ancestors. This meal is the foundation of Jesus’ last supper and leads us into the Sacred Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.

These three days are like time out of time.  We continue to live our daily lives, working and caring for family and doing all those day to day tasks that hold body and soul together. We also live into a parallel dimension in which we walk with Jesus Christ in his passion, through his death, to his resurrection. These days are referred to as the Sacred Triduum in Latin, the Holiest Three Days in English.  Worship on these days appears to be three services but is, in fact, only one. Worship begins on Maundy Thursday with the prayer:

"Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these Holy Mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life. Amen." (Book of Common Prayer, page 274)

There is no dismissal until the end of the Easter worship service when we proclaim, “let us go forth in the Name of Christ, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

These three days are truly the center of the Christian year.  On Maundy Thursday we share in the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples as he gives them, and us, a new commandment which he demonstrates by washing their feet.

"Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord. . . So if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you." (John 13:1-15)

"This is my Commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

After this meal Jesus is betrayed, then tried by the Chief priests and later by the Roman Governor Pilate. We end our worship on this evening by striping the altar area of all adornments, symbolizing that the light of Christ is leaving the world.  And then we leave the church in silence and sadness.

On Good Friday we continue our worship with the following words:

"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross."(Book of Common Prayer, p. 276)

The Passion Gospel of Jesus is then read, leading us on the journey to the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal, and his death and burial.  We remember the passion of Jesus by participating in his journey.  Prayers for all of God’s people follow, ending with prayers for forgiveness and silent communion from previously consecrated bread and wine. This day is not a time for celebration. The following prayer closes part two of our three day journey:
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death.  Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory. Amen." (Book of Common Prayer, page 282)

On the Third Day we proclaim, “Alleluia. Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia.” The three days end and the rest of our life in Christ Begins!

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