As we near the end of March and on into April we enter that time in our liturgical year/season that is truly the most holy time of all our worship in the Episcopal Church.
Sunday, March 25, we begin Holy Week. The ancient church writers always referred to this week as “The Great Days”. This week commemorates the final journey of the Lord towards his passion, death and ultimately his resurrection. In the early Church, each of these days had a “station”, a place where the Jerusalem community gathered to commemorate an event from the life of Jesus that led to his arrest. On what we know as “Palm Sunday”, they gathered on the Mount of Olives, directly opposite Jerusalem, and marched down the hill into Jerusalem, carrying palm and olive branches shouting and singing “HOSANNAH”! They enacted the scene of Jesus, with the Bishop of Jerusalem, as Christ, writing on a donkey.
As the week continued, they would gather at various locales to hear the scriptures and to share in the Eucharist. Then on Thursday, what we know of as Maundy or Holy, they gathered in the upper room (above what is believed to be King David’s tomb), to sing hymns, listen to the Passover Story from Exodus, remember Christ’s words, and the Bishop once again breaking bread and blessing wine for them to share. The community then processed to the Garden of the Agony for an all-night vigil in prayer.
This vigil lasted until after midnight, into what we know of a Good Friday, when some members came and “arrested” the Bishop, and brought him and all the community to the site of the “Praetorium”, Pilate’s palace. As the night progressed into day they continued up through Jerusalem, stopping at places to mark the events of the passion, until they arrived at what is now the Church of the Holy Sepulcher” and commemorated the death and burial of Jesus.
People stayed in vigil through that Saturday listening to the Hebrew Testament scriptures that foretold of this moment. The community regathered just before dawn and three women came into their midst to visit the tomb. As they gathered, one of the deacons or priests would come before and announce that the tomb is empty, that Jesus had arisen. “ALLELUIA, THE LORD IS RISEN” the whole community chanted. The Bishop came out and new members of the community were baptized, the Eucharist celebrated and a great feast enjoyed by all in attendance.
In our own day, we have elevated Christmas to a greater celebration that Holy Week and Easter. I invite you to participate in the various services we offer here at St. Luke’s to commemorate the great salvation event of our Christian Faith, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died and rose to life that we might have new life in him.