Liturgy of the Palms:
Luke 22:39 –23:56
Fr. Ross Kimball
In Revelation 21:5, we hear God’s purposes for this creation: “I am making all things new!” God’s eternal purposes unfold in time, and what we now call Holy Week stands as the pivot point of those eternal purposes. Holy Week is the most decisive week in all of human history seen from the standpoint of divine sovereignty. In this week, all that matters most in human relations was irrevocably enfolded into God’s unstoppable work of “making all things new.” We’re still living within the power of that transformational week! So it’s worth celebrating and deepening our appreciation of and participation in the new-making work of God in Jesus, the Messiah.
Palm-Passion Sunday, April 14, 9:30am
Palm Sunday marks a turning point in unveiling a New Kingdom. Jesus had opened his public ministry proclaiming the arrival of God’s reign. Until the point of Palm Sunday, Jesus was content to have the Messianic character of that Kingdom remain a mystery. On what we now call Palm Sunday, Jesus made things crystal clear—he came as the
promised Messiah, son of David, son of God. The New Kingdom had come, the Kingdom of Our Lord and of His Christ. At the time though, no one could quite fathom what Jesus was saying, doing, or being. We memorialize and enter into that paradox of both knowing and not-quite knowing by celebrating on Palm Sunday both the Triumphal Entry that began the week and the Passion that ended it.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Holy Week are one continuous liturgy called the Triduum Domini—the Three Days of the Lord. Beginning on Maundy Thursday, and culminating on Saturday night at The Great Vigil, this liturgy dramatizes and reveals the great passion of our Lord for the redemption of the world.
Maundy Thursday: April 18, 7:30pm
The drama of the Triduum liturgy begins on Maundy Thursday (“maundy” is from the Latin word for commandment) as we remember Jesus’ New Commandment to love others as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34-35). We will also celebrate the memorial Jesus commanded, transfiguring the Passover meal of the old covenant into the Paschal Feast of the New Covenant. At this table, the great sacrifice of Jesus’ self-giving love began, being completed less than a day later in the final cry on the Cross.
The Maundy Thursday service concludes with the “Stripping of the Altar” (removing all ornaments, linens, and paraments). Since the Christian altar is an icon of Christ’s Body, this ancient custom of the Church symbolizes the humiliation of Jesus at the hands of the rulers and the soldiers. As Jesus’s life and dignity were stripped from Him, so we strip our altar of all signs of life and dignity. In this way, we symbolize His purposeful, redemptive suffering, humiliation, and death for us. We have no benediction or postlude at the end of this service to indicate that the Triduum liturgy has not yet been finished.
Those who are able may remain for a service of watching and praying. Silent meditation, scripture, and acapella hymns will frame our individual and corporate prayers.
Good Friday: April 19, 7:30pm
The crisis of the Triduum drama unfolds on Good Friday evening. We meditate on how Jesus died: resolute in obedient love, merciful to a helpless criminal, forgiving his tormentors and mockers, providing a caregiver for his mother, mindful to the end that his dying was ultimately a self-offering into the hands of his heavenly Father.
On Good Friday, no Eucharist is celebrated. Bread and Wine consecrated on Maundy Thursday is brought to the still-bare altar. We partake of the Body and Blood in solemn gratitude, knowing that by his wounds we are healed. Again, no benediction or postlude concludes the service, for the Triduum is not yet complete.
The Great Easter Vigil: April 20, 7:30pm
The Great Easter Vigil is the dramatic climax of the Triduum liturgy. It unfolds in four parts that move from the shadows of death into the light of resurrection.
Part One: The Service of Light. Starting outside the darkened church, a fire is kindled and the new Paschal Candle is lit and blessed. In solemn yet joyful procession, the Paschal Light is brought into the congregation as the Light of Christ is both sung and shared. We hear the “Exsultet” (from the Latin word “rejoice”), a song praising the triumph of the Paschal Lamb over the darkness of sin and death.
Part Two: The Service of Prophecy. We hear Old Testament passages recalling God’s promises and purposes to redeem the fallen and estranged creation. Each passage is followed by a Collect.
Part Three: The Service of Baptism and Renewal of Baptismal Vows. As baptism is a participation in Christ’s Death (Romans 6), all reaffirm that the meaning of their own baptism is inseparable from the once-for-all sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Part Four: The First Eucharist of Easter. At the beginning of the Eucharist, the great Easter proclamation is made—”Alleluia. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia”—and we ring bells with joyful abandon (bring a bell, the loudest you can carry). This is indeed the Feast of Victory for our God. At last the great Triduum liturgy is complete, and we go forth in the blessing and sending of the Risen Christ.
Easter Morning: April 21, 9:30am
On Easter morning, the great finished work of redemption is celebrated with full focus on the Triumph of Jesus’ resurrection. Our Passover Lamb has conquered death and brought life and immortality to light through his great, self-giving love. From him now flow the waters of the river of life—the waters of baptism and blessing. “Christ became obedient for us unto death, even the death of the Cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.”