Sunday of the Passion / Palm Sunday

This day marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem to complete the work of our salvation.  We gather outside the church to hear the proclamation of the gospel story of Jesus entering Jerusalem.  The pastor blesses the palms in our hands, and singing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” we join that procession into the church, our own holy place.  The mood quickly changes from joy to sorrow as we hear the story of Jesus’ suffering, death, and burial for our sakes.

Processional Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; or Luke 19:28-40

Reading of the Passion: Matthew 27:11-54; Mark 15:1-39; or Luke 23:1-49

Compline on the Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week, 7:00 p.m.

On the weekdays before the Triduum, we contemplate the mystery of Christ’s death, looking forward to the miracle of his resurrection and our passage from death to life.  On the first two weekdays, we use the daily prayer office of Compline, also known as Prayer at the Close of the Day.  Together we sing, “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.”

Psalmody: Psalm 36:5-11 (Monday); Psalm 71:1-14 (Tuesday)

Reading: John 12:1-11 (Monday); John 12:20-36 (Tuesday)

Tenebrae on the Wednesday of Holy Week, 7:00 p.m.

The choir leads us in Tenebrae, the office of shadows, as we draw closer to the Triduum.  The readings come from the book of Lamentations, expressing the sorrow and mourning which marks the first two days of the Triduum.  The reading is split into seven different sections; after each section, the choir sings a meditation from the Book of Job, and a candle is extinguished.  The one remaining lit candle is removed from view as a loud noise is made in the darkness, symbolizing the crucifixion.  The candle is brought back into the view of the congregation to foreshadow the resurrection of the crucified One.

Maundy Thursday – Day 1 of the Triduum, 7:00 p.m.

On the first of the three days of the Triduum, we recall Jesus’ new commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”  Maundy comes from mandatum, meaning commandment.  We witness the ministers and those preparing for affirmation of baptism wash the feet of those who wish it, showing us a sign of our call to follow Jesus’ example of humility and service, and participating in the humility of receiving such a gift.  On this night we also gather around the table, just as the apostles gathered with Jesus on the night before he was betrayed.  The liturgy concludes not with a benediction (since the three-day liturgy has not yet ended) but rather with the stripping of the altar-table, leaving the church bare for Good Friday.  We leave in silence.

Gospel: John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Good Friday – Day 2 of the Triduum, Noon and 7:00 p.m.

On Good Friday we return to a sanctuary stripped bare from the preceding night, to center our prayer around the crucifixion.  The noon liturgy is the traditional Stations of the Cross, where we meditate on Jesus’ journey from his trial to his death on the cross.  The evening liturgy begins with a sung passion according to John, which celebrates Christ’s victory on the cross.  The liturgy includes the Bidding Prayer, the ancient intercessions for the world, the church, those preparing for baptism, those in need, and those who do not yet know Christ.  A large cross is brought to the front of the church, and we are invited to pray close to it, to touch it, to feel the wood on our skin: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you; by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”  But since Good Friday is not the end, we conclude the second day of the Triduum with the sixth-century hymn “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle.”  The congregation leaves in silence, no benediction being given, to prepare for the last of the three days.

The Passion: John 18:1—19:42

Holy Saturday / Vigil of Easter – Day 3 of the Triduum, 8:00 p.m.

On the night before Easter Day, the Church around the world gathers to celebrate Christ’s passage from death to life.  The liturgy begins in the courtyard with the striking of the new fire, a sign of the new creation in Christ.  From the blazing fire, the Paschal Candle, a sign of Christ as the light of the world, is lighted, and we follow it up the stairs into the darkened church.  From this sign of Christ our individual candles are lighted, and the church glows as the Easter Proclamation is sung: “Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!”

We take our time during this liturgy to hear the story of salvation, including the creation of the world, Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea, Isaiah’s prophesy of salvation for all, and the deliverance from the fiery furnace.  Following the practice of the early church, new converts are baptized, and the whole congregation remembers their baptismal promise and is sprinkled with the baptismal water.  “Alleluia!” rings out again, the lights are turned up, flowers are brought in, the presiding ministers put on gold and white vestments, and we celebrate the first Eucharist of Easter.

We do not leave in silence on this night, but in exuberance, wishing everyone a happy Easter. We continue the feast downstairs with food, drink and fellowship, in the triumphant new life we have in Christ.

Old Testament Readings:

Genesis 1:1—2:4a

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21

Isaiah 55:1-11

Daniel 3:1-29

New Testament Reading: Romans 6:3-11

Gospel: John 20:1-18