Holy Week is one of the most challenging and beautiful weeks of the Church year, as it is the week when we tell the story of the death and resurrection of Christ through our liturgy.
You might think that we began with Palm Sunday, and you’d be right, but at Transfiguration we began to prepare for Holy Week first with Lenten Journey. Lenten Journey is an interactive prayer experience that is set up in our Parish Hall. All are invited to walk through stations that engage different senses. At some stations, you will listen to a recording, and at others you will run your fingers through sand, and at others you will even use clay to make a small sculpture. Each station involves prayer and scriptural reflection. The meditation is self-guided and self-timed, and it is the perfect experience to prepare for Holy Week.
On Palm Sunday, we waved our palms in procession as we celebrated Christ’s entrance to Jerusalem. But, while our “Hosannas” were still echoing in our ears, we were faced with the story of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Palm Sunday serves to show us the chaotic nature of Holy Week, and it prepares us for the spiritual journey of grief and joy that we travel in our worship during that week. We also worshipped God through the Passion Experience for Families, an interactive liturgy that allows children, families, and people of all ages to engage the story rather than simply hear it.
On Wednesday, we sang through the Psalter at Tenebrae. Tenebrae means “darkness” or “shadows;” it is a jarring liturgy, focusing its attention around singing and light. Candles are extinguished over the course of the service, as Psalms are sung and we hear the Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet. Tenebrae helps us to recognize the darkness and mystery we experience during Holy Week in a new way.
For Maundy Thursday, we offer services for all to attend, as well as a service specifically for children and families. Maundy means “mandate,” and this service is when we hear Christ’s commandment to love one another, after his washing the disciples feet and dining with them at the Last Supper. We participate in the movements and life of Christ through following in his example; in this liturgy, we follow his example by washing each other’s feet. It is a communal act: to wash and to be washed. It is an intimate act that we participate in, as we recognize the love Jesus showed for his disciples before his death, including the disciple who was to betray him.
Following the Maundy Thursday service, parishioners went to the Vigil of the Blessed Sacrament, where they prayed with bread and wine reserved from the 7:00p.m. service. Throughout the night, Transfiguration answered the call of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked, “Could you not stay awake with me one hour?” Prayers were offered out of the St. Augustine’s prayer book, as well as the Book of Common Prayer, New Zealand prayer book, and other resources. All were invited to take time to sit with Christ in the garden, recognizing that the time drew closer and closer for him to die.
On Good Friday, Transfiguration recognizes the death of Christ in a very special way: through having choristers chant the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a unique way to hear the gospel, and it helps us to hear a story that we hear often—and twice just in Holy Week—in a new way. Through the shifts in the chant, we are reminded of the shifting emotions in the story, and in the characters. At this service, we also venerate the cross, which means that we offer time for people to come forward and offer prayers at the foot of the cross. At the noon service, we also have communion of the reserved sacrament, which means that we consume the body and blood of Christ that we reserved for the vigil we kept the night before. As we take the communion of the reserved sacrament, we recognize with each person who receives the body and blood of Christ, that Christ is leaving the church. When we have finished this communion, he is truly gone. The service concludes in silence, as we are left speechless after the death of Jesus. We also worshipped through the Good Friday Liturgy for Children and Families, when we traveled all around the church to visit five stations of the cross. We sang “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” in procession, while stopping along the way to pray together, and to wonder where we find ourselves standing beside Christ in the Good Friday story.
Holy Saturday is an often overlooked, but very important part of the Holy Week journey. Holy Saturday, we recognized the space between the death of Christ and his resurrection. On Holy Saturday, we sat in the tomb with Jesus, and recognized the grief and mourning that his loved ones must have felt after his death.
Then, on Saturday evening, after the sun had set, we began our service still in the tomb. We gathered on the labyrinth to light a New Fire. We entered the church guided only by the light of the Paschal candle, lit from the fire we kindled. We listened to the story of creation, the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, and other stories that are at the core of our faith, as a way to remember where we have come from as a people who worship God. In the darkness, and still only by candlelight, we welcomed Miriam Jane Mazur into the Christian faith and life through baptism. Following her baptism, we heard the proclamation of Easter, as it was revealed to us that, “Christ has risen! The Lord has risen indeed!” With banners, bells, timpani, brass, and many “Alleluias!” we extinguished our candles and felt the truth of Christ’s resurrection fill our hearts, ears, and minds with joy. When we heard the proclamation of Easter, we knew the Easter season had begun!
Sunday morning, the Easter celebration continued with more timpani and brass, more “Alleluias!” and continued proclamations of resurrection and joy. We had three services, and extended our worship space all the way to Roper Hall, where we held the 9:15a.m. service for children and families! Between the services, we released butterflies in the memorial garden, a visible sign of the resurrection we celebrate this season.
And now, in this week following Easter Sunday, let us remember that Easter is not finished! It has only begun! Easter is not a day, it is a whole season, and we have weeks left to sing our Alleluias! This Sunday, April 23, we will even welcome two new children into the household of God—Sofia Cait Boulter and Quinton Michael Ruliffson—as a continued celebration of the resurrection of Christ. I hope you’ll enjoy us in this beautiful season of gratitude and praise!