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The Rites of Holy Week

The traditions of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, and moving to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and culminating in Easter Sunday, began in the 4th Century. The Easter Vigil was much earlier, as it was the day when those who had undergone a two year catechism program were baptized publicly. The other services were added as people began to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem. As more and more came to Jerusalem, they began the “rememorative” services of Palm Sunday through Good Friday – services that took place on the very ground where Jesus had entered Jerusalem, had his Last Supper with his disciples, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and was Crucified at Golgotha. As pilgrims returned to their homes, they brought these services with them, until they became part of the liturgy, and Holy Week was officially born.

These traditions are at least seventeen centuries old. They have gone through changes over time. In the usual medieval fashion in the Church, the services were embellished with such things as carrying a
coffin through the streets on Good Friday. Most of that embellishment has gone away, and with the Protestant Reformation, Holy Week was scrutinized and brought down to much simpler form.

The services of Holy Week are very moving; indeed they are the most intense liturgies we have in the Episcopal Church. Yet year after year, few people attend. As your Rector, I encourage you to take the time to come to the services of Holy Week. You will find a combination of ancient tradition, beautiful music, and deep devotion.

This year, we are doing something different for Palm Sunday: we will focus on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and then read the passion as a congregation at the end of the service. There will be no 4:30pm
Evening Song Service on this day.

Maundy Thursday will include the stripping of the altar, a “rememorative” act that returns us to the time when Jesus was stripped and beaten. The altar is stripped in silence; it is done quickly, and not reverently, just as Jesus was stripped.

Good Friday includes the liturgy from the Prayer Book at Noon. Jeanne Klusewitz will be our organist for that service. In the evening is our Taize service – a service of passion readings and music that commemorate Jesus’ death on the cross.

Easter Vigil is our Contemporary service on Saturday evening that includes the lighting of the Holy Fire, the carrying of the Light of Christ into the Church, and readings from the Old Testament that give us a look at Salvation history.

Easter Sunday will be two services: 8:00 and 9:30, both with music this year. As always, there will be an Easter Egg Hunt after the 9:30 service.

The evening services of Holy Week are at 7:30 pm.

The Reverend Loree Penner, Rector