Have you ever noticed that we Episcopalians tend to have a fancy formal name for practically everything.
The space behind the altar rail is the Sanctuary. The space in the church outside the altar rail up unto the entrance doors is the Nave. The area between the Parish Hall and the Nave is known as the Narthex. Finally, the area downstairs underneath the Parish Hall is more formally known as the Undercroft.
Considering our Episcopal need to formally name everything, it should come as no great surprise that we also do the same naming theme with our unique liturgical form of worship. Each liturgical season is defined by the particular color we use on the altar. Right now we are in Lent and the liturgical color is purple. However, in two weeks we will switch our liturgical color to red once we begin Holy Week.
Here again, we do not allow the opportunity for giving formal names to escape us. Sunday is the first day of the week. So in Holy Week we begin with Palm Sunday and the Blessing of the Palms. This is the day that Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem and was hailed as the coming King. Of course we know things didn’t go exactly has people thought they might.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Holy Week, which this year is April 3rd, 4th, and 5th , will give us the opportunity to share our Holy Week worshipping with two neighboring churches. First Methodist and First Presbyterian will join with All Saints’ for a three day series of noon day meditations based upon John’s gospel. A light soup and salad meal will follow after each service.
Next we get to Maundy Thursday. Several traditions are often observed on this night in Holy Week. This is the night when Jesus offered a foot washing to his disciples. In a post Covid world we are not quite ready to resume this tradition. Yet, this is also the night in which he instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion. At the end of the service the altar is solemnly stripped and left bare of all vestments and vessels. This is to prepare us for what will follow on Good Friday.
On Good Friday Jesus is crucified. We remember his death by reliving how he suffered by the walking the 14 Stations of the Cross. We share communion from the reserved sacrament from the night before. After which whatever is left is consumed. The Tabernacle where the reserved sacrament is kept is now empty and the door is left open. The Sanctuary Candle is extinguished as the real presence of Christ’s Body and Blood is not present until after the Resurrection.
On the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, we hold the Great Vigil of Easter. This is traditionally the first service of Easter. The service begins in the dark with the kindling of a new fire and the lighting of the Paschal Candle. The story of God’s creation is retold. The dawning of Easter Day is greeted with the return of Alleluias and joyful music.
All of this happens in just seven days. There are so many opportunities for us to delve deeper into the mysteries of our Christian faith. Having taken part in all the events of Holy Week a greater understanding is reached when we boldly proclaim the words, “Christ has died! Christ has Risen! Christ will come again!”