"No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown." – William Penn
As we prepare the enter the final week of Lent, several unique liturgies emerge. These are have been a part of our tradition for generations. They have a unique place in our prayer books, as very few holy days have their own liturgy.
Palm Sunday celebrates a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This day is also marked by the reading of the Passion Gospel. This tradition has taken many forms. The challenge, in part, is how to offer a longer portion of the Gospel, as any smaller segment excludes too much of the story. Many churches also use palm branches as a part of a large procession, bring the story to life. We also tend to include intergeneration activities during the formation hour at 9am.
The liturgy Maundy Thursday recalls both the institution of the Eucharist, as well as Christ washing the disciples feet. The Eucharist is more familiar, as we practice it every week and rarely wash the feet of one another. The connection between the humbling nature of foot-washing and the Eucharist is one we ought to carry with us throughout the year. This service is made complete with the stripping of the altar, that is the removal of all items in the sacristy. It is reminiscent of Jesus being taken away from the garden. A prayer observance continues in the church until the service on Good Friday.
Good Friday is a solemn occasion as we remember the crucifixion. We gather for prayer and reflection. It is the only day the church expects us to fast from the Eucharist. Where the sacrament is received, it would be from reserve sacrament from the Eucharistic prayer is universal. This service often includes Stations of the Cross (although we will forgo that this year at Ascension), or some reading of the Passion Gospel. The Passion Gospel for Good Friday is always from the Gospel of John, whereas we read from the synoptic Gospels on Palm Sunday. This year we will also reinstate the tradition of a veneration of the cross, although the practice will look different than in years past.
The Easter Vigil can properly occur anytime between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter. It begins with the kindling of new light in the form of a flame. The first part of the service includes a magnificent chant and readings that mark the story of God and the faithful who have followed God. It often includes baptisms and is properly the entrance into Easter. As the first Easter proclamation is made, more candles are lighted and the fullness of the church lighting is offered. It continues with the first Eucharist of Easter.
I hope this overview helps entice you as we prepare for Holy Week. There are more formation and fellowship offerings throughout this week, noted the announcements. I am looking forward to experiencing these powerful liturgies with you once again.