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Posts Tagged ‘Alleluia’

is my favourite time of year.  It’s more work than Christmas…a LOT more work, and yet I feel a great sense of awe during this time.

My tradition has been to preside 10 services over 8 days.  Many think I’m nuts.  Some colleagues think I’m showing off or flaunting my piety, but it isn’t any of those things.  My Holy Week journey is intensely personal.  I suspect I would follow these services whether or not I was in a congregation.  It is something that I feel I ‘must’ do during Holy Week.

Last year was bittersweet as I knew I was in my last year with the congregation.  I had no idea where I was going, but I knew it would not be there.  It made the readings about death that much more poignant and made the Alleluia’s of Easter Day that much more bittersweet.

Now I have moved across the country.  I’m in a new province, in a new town, in a new house, in a new congregation.  They have not experienced anything like this before, and it’s been eye opening in many ways, for both of us.

Palm Sunday traditionally involves the Good Friday gospel.  In fact it’s referred to as the Sunday of the Passion with the Liturgy of the Palms.  I don’t like that.  So I separate them.  In my opinion, when you’re covering that much theological ground in an hour long service, you’re going to get whiplash.

Palm Sunday is about the “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem.  It’s about waving weeds in the air and shouting “Hosanna” to the one the poor knew was King…an act of defiance to the one (Herod) who was self-proclaimed King.  It’s about Jesus saying “here I am!  You want me, come and get me!” to the authorities.    It’s a nose-thumbing at the establishment of the day.

Holy Monday is the Stations of the Cross – 14 stations that are hung around the Church and we gather to retrace Jesus last footsteps from his trial before Pilate, to the three falls, seeing the women of Jerusalem, facing his devastated mother, being nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb…it’s emotional, it’s turbulent and it prepares us by helping put things in perspective.

Holy Tuesday is Tenebrae – service of shadows in which we light seven candles and place them on the altar.  No other altar lights are used.  The lighting in the Church is subdued and we have time for prayer, reflection and dialogue.  The question is asked “What if Jesus had said no” and we allow time to sit in the realisation that Jesus sacrifice was a gift.  When in the garden at Gethsemane Jesus pleads to be released and the answer he receives is deafening silence.  Like the rest of us, he had free will…he could have said no, in fact he tried to!  But in the end he stood up and did what he had to do; freely, willingly and lovingly.

Holy Wednesday is the night of Healing, Eucharist and Anointing – we gather to pray for those we know, those we don’t know, and for ourselves.  We ask forgiveness for the things we should have done but didn’t, and for the things we have done but shouldn’t.  We bring this darkness before the Lord and we are forgiven.  We can ask for prayers, laying on of hands and anointing, to remind us, as at our baptism, that we are God’s children…the beloved.

Maundy Thursday begins the Three Sacred Days, or Paschal Triduum.  The service opens as any other service does with a Processional Hymn.  Quickly though, it changes as we move through a reminder of Jesus command to service – we are called to serve, not to be served.  We them move into Eucharist, and I like to use one from Iona that is only used once a year.  After we have shared communion for the last time, the tone of the service changes as the Altar is stripped, the Lamentations are chanted and we are left with our thoughts.

The last thing that happens is for a bare cross to be carried up and left, without ceremony, against the chancel steps.  There is an overnight vigil at the Church so ensure the tomb is protected.

Good Friday we gather in silence and subdued lighting with a sense of loss and longing.  Although we live 2,000 years beyond the story, it is important to be reminded of why we do what we do, and for whom we do it.  The Gospel is read – it is long and onerous – and it tells a story of injustice and hatred.  We hear a homily about just what is so “good” about Good Friday and then we adorn the cross  with a sign, crown of thorns, three nails, royal purple, a towel and a stalk.  Black stones are distributed before service begins and there is a time for us to hold the stones and put all of that which we no longer wish to carry with us.  When the time is right, we come forward and place our black stone at the foot of the cross.  Then we pick up a white stone to remind us that through Christ we receive new life.

When the time is right we leave the tomb in silence and confusion.

Holy Saturday evening we gather where the new fire is kindled outside and light the paschal candle which will burn for the next 50 days.  We hear the Exultet chanted – an ancient story of this sacred night when heaven is wedded to earth and we are reconciled to God.  We go into the parish hall and share stories, songs and prayers from our ancestors, then we head upstairs and renew our baptism vows.  A traditional Holy Saturday bursts open the doors of the tomb and shows the resurrected space – life reborn in Christ.  My tradition is to stop at the door for two reasons – one is to prolong the suspense of the resurrected Christ and the other is to make sure there is the proper emphasis on the Day of Resurrection.  When I have celebrated the entire Holy Saturday service it is a long service, and somehow takes away from the celebration of the Day of Resurrection – Easter Day.

Before we depart we shout Alleluia and depart in hopeful expectation for the risen Lord whom we will see the following day.

Wherever you are on your Lenten and Holy Week journey, if you have never partaken in the Paschal Triduum, I invite you to do so.  It is an amazing time of reconciliation, of acknowledging our brokenness and truly understanding who we are and whose we are.  It is a lot of work to preside these services, and yet it is moreso very life giving.

We live in a time when there are more people than every who have never heard the gospel – the good news.  And it is our responsibility as people of faith, to share that story with them.  To show them that even in this broken world, we are loved; truly, unconditionally and that without fail, love always wins.

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