Holy Week Services
Palm Sunday - March 24, 10:30 a.m.
One of the largest festivals in ancient Israel was the festival of the coronation of the king. From outside the city the king-to-be-crowned would ride a donkey up the eastern approach-road toward Jerusalem, the centerpiece in a parade that included musicians, chanters, bearers of royal artifacts, and marching soldiers. Great crowds would line the road to witness the parade and acclaim the coming coronation. Many in the crowd would place leafy branches on the parade route as a “red carpet” for the king to travel. Entering the east gate of Jerusalem, the parade would proceed to the Jerusalem Temple where the high priest would, in the name of God, perform the coronation. The king would then ascend his throne and be lifted up before all the people.
Palm Sunday was a play on this event, but with significant differences. The king-to-be-crowned rode a donkey into the city, but the great crowd probably numbered fewer than 12. He would be crowned at the Temple, but his crown would be a crown of thorns. He would be lifted up before the people, but on a cross, not a throne. His kingdom would not be the kingdom of Israel, but the Kingdom of God. Worshiping on Palm Sunday, we travel with Jesus toward his coronation, which is the cross.
Maundy Thursday - March 28, 7:00 p.m.
Mandatum novum do vobis, the first words of an anthem sung in earliest times in Roman Catholic churches, means “A new commandment I give to you.” The word “maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum,” to mandate or command. It was on this Thursday night that Christ and the disciples observed Passover and ate together for the last time. It was also then that Christ washed the feet of the disciples and gave them a new commandment, to love one another as he had loved them. To take part in a communion service on the Thursday before Easter is to remember Christ’s last supper with his disciples and that new commandment, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
At the conclusion of this service, the sanctuary is stripped of all adornments and remains bare until the Easter Vigil, when the process is reversed and the worship space is “dressed” again. The stark, bare unadorned church now reflects Jesus’ abandonment during the night in Gethsemane. The visual aspect of the transformed worship space gives us a dramatic depiction of Christ’s desolation. Symbolically, Jesus, stripped of his power and glory, is now in the hands of his captors.
Good Friday Tenebrae Service - March 29, 7:00 p.m.
Tenebrae means darkness, shadows. This is the time we recall the passion of our Lord, the pain, the suffering and the grief which he bore for our sake. It is through the cross that our freedom was gained by Christ. We light candles which symbolize the last hours, or shadows of Christ’s life. As each candle is extinguished, we walk with Christ on his journey to the Cross until finally, only the Christ Candle remains. Finally, that candle too, will be extinguished symbolizing our Lord’s death on the cross. As the bell tolls for each year of Christ’s life, we wait in silence and remember. Following the service, we depart in silence and in darkness until we return to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord from the power of sin and death.