Dean’s Letter: Holy Week Part 2

Hello St. Paul’s,

By now we are well into Holy Week, the center of our year and our faith. We have celebrated the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and we have meditated deeply on the mystery of his Passion, as recounted by St. Luke. Now we turn to the Triduum, the three holiest days. Our observance of these holy days marks our gratitude for the redemption of the world by the risen Christ.

Today, Maundy Thursday, we remember the night before Jesus died, his institution of the Eucharist, and his humble act of washing his disciples’ feet. We are commanded, or mandated, hence “Maundy”, to do for each other what he has done for us, to love and serve one another and to share the Communion meal. As Communion ends we solemnly carry the blessed Sacrament into the Chapel of the Holy Family, to rest in the garden of repose overnight.

Following this service we share a simple meal of soup and bread, and may then return to the chapel to participate in a Vigil, which begins with the story of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest and continues with a quiet time of prayer before the reserved Communion elements. In our vigil we imitate the disciples who tried to stay awake with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. At the end of the vigil the reserved sacrament is consumed, just as all leavened bread is consumed before the Passover.

Good Friday continues the story as we gather at noon to ponder the mystery of the Crucifixion, aided by spoken meditations and a choral setting of the Stabat Mater hymn, accompanied by a string quartet. In the evening we observe the liturgy of the day, hearing a chanted setting of the Passion as St. John tells it and venerating the Cross. This year, with the bishop’s permission, we are using a new translation of John’s Passion, which avoids the impression of anti-semitism. We are not permitted to bless the Communion elements on Good Friday: it is a day of profound fasting. You may wonder why we hear the Passion again after hearing it on Palm Sunday: at one time Palm Sunday focused only on the triumphal entry, but the Church discerned that many people are unable to leave work to attend Good Friday services, so the Passion is now included on Palm Sunday.

On Holy Saturday a simple morning service reminds us of Jesus’ time in the tomb: a true Sabbath day, as we are not permitted to celebrate the Eucharist until after sunset.

Liturgical time is counted from sunset to sunset (see Genesis 1: “It was evening and it was morning, the first day”), so, once we reach sunset on Holy Saturday it is officially Easter and we can celebrate the Great Vigil, an ancient and remarkable liturgy during which we sit in the dark and hear several stories from the Hebrew Scriptures recounting God’s promises to the faithful, followed by the renewal of our baptismal covenant, then confirmations and receptions, until finally, all the lights come on, the Bishop proclaims Easter and we burst into praise and celebration.

Easter Day of course continues the festivities, with two services in English and one in Spanish. The Bishop will preside at 10:30 am and 1 pm. There is no evening service on Easter Day.

I hope you will make time to enter fully into these three days: they will make Easter all the more meaningful.

Your sister in Christ,
Penny

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