Holy Week is only a couple of weeks away now, and so now is a good time to pray about your observance of the week. Do remember that Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day are days of obligation for all Christians, and that you should make every effort to be in church on those days. However, there is also a lot more going on for you to think about being involved with. Those who follow the whole week find it an inspiring and moving experience, indeed, there is nothing else in the whole liturgical year to match it – and that is how it should be for we celebrate the greatest event in the history of the world, the death and resurrection of our Lord.
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are known as the Easter Tridium, the three great days. Christ redeemed us all and gave perfect glory to God principally through his paschal mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life. Therefore the Easter Tridium of the passion and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Whatever you decide to do, remember that the way of the cross calls us to go outside our comfort zone and experience more of Christ’s love. Holy Week is a good way to do that. Here’s some information about the individual services during the week:
We celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, acclaimed by his disciples and the people. Here he is, on a donkey, riding in to claim God’s Kingdom, starting the chain of events that will lead him to the cross. Our service begins at the United Reformed Church at 10:00am with the blessing of the palms (the same palms that we will burn to form the ashes for Ash Wednesday in 2016), and we then process to church. The service will be also held in church for those unable to come across to the URC. The gospel on this day is the account from John of Jesus’s passion and is sung throughout.
The sermons for Holy Week will be preached by Fr Peter Green, chaplain at Bishop Grosseteste University, and they form a unity throughout the week. Through the preaching and the readings, we enter into the story of salvation shown through Christ’s encounters with others and their reactions to him: Mary, the sister of Martha, Judas, Philip. Through the sacrament, we are united with Christ in his passion and in his journey to the cross and through his presence in us, we are strengthened to take up our own cross and follow him. At the Cathedral in Tuesday morning at 11:00am there is the Chrism Mass, at which the oils to be used for baptism, healing, the last rites and confirmation in the following year are presented and blessed and given to the clergy for use in their parishes.
Maundy Thursday is named after the great commandment (in Latin Mandatum = Maundy), to love one another as Christ has loved us. At 8:00pm we gather in church to make present the Last Supper, the first institution of the Eucharist and to show the real nature of Christ’s (and therefore God’s) love for us. 12 representatives of the church (including our confirmation candidates) will have their feet washed by Fr Stephen to show how Christ’s command to wash each other’s feet, to serve one another and to love is expressed by the Church in humble service. On this special night, we share the sacrament, and towards the end of the service, the blessed sacrament is placed in monstrance and taken to the Garden of Repose where we are invited to watch and pray with Christ in the garden. We also strip the church bare in preparation for Good Friday. Please stay and watch with Christ a time – you can come and go as you wish – or you can stay until the watch ends with Christ’s arrest at midnight.
All barriers down, we come to church in the morning to worship with our brothers and sisters from different Christian traditions. At 10:00am we gather with the URC church members at St John’s for an ecumenical service. At lunchtime, you could join the procession of witness in the centre of town. Our main service is at 3:00pm, the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday. Here we wait with Christ on the cross in quiet; we hear the story of trial, suffering and crucifixion. We come to the cross as we are.
A day of waiting and preparation, but a busy one! We gather, as did the first disciples, and we break bread together in a short service at 9:00am and then we come to prepare the church for the proclamation of the resurrection of our Lord. The church is cleaned and decorated. The Easter Garden is prepared. At 7:00pm we join together for the Easter Vigil. The new fire of Easter is lit and the Paschal candle blessed and lit for the first time. We rejoice with the whole church and then listen to the story of salvation through the scriptures, culminating in the resurrection of our Lord in new life, hope and joy. We bless the waters of baptism and renew our own baptismal promises. We rejoice in the first mass of Easter. This service is the true climax of Holy Week
And so Holy Week comes to an end and Eastertide is ushered in. We proclaim that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! We bless the Easter garden and we share in the promise of risen life through word and sacrament.