Sunday, April 17, 2011

Holy Week (Year A)

Today is Palm Sunday and the beginning of what is known as "Holy Week." Holy Week is the full week leading up to Easter. Special days include: Palm Sunday (or Passion Sunday), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday
This is the day in which we remember and celebrate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, where he was greeted by a crowd with palm branches shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" (Matthew 21:1-11). Years ago the Episcopal Church realized that many people were not coming to the services later in Holy Week and so were going from one Sunday service of celebration (Palm Sunday) straight into another Sunday service of celebration (Easter) without Jesus' death in-between! The joys of Easter cannot be fully felt unless you first work through the sorrow and terror of the crucifixion. Today, in the Episcopal Church, we also call this day the Sunday of the Passion and in the same service that we celebrate with palms we also read aloud the passion narrative (the account of Jesus' betrayal, trial, and death - Matthew 26:14- 27:66). Other recommended readings: Isaiah 50:4-9a , Psalm 31:9-16 , and Philippians 2:5-11 

Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday
These days are not usually remembered with a special service.
Recommended readings are as follows: 
Holy Monday - Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 36:5-11, Hebrews 9:11-15, and John 12:1-11
Holy Tuesday - Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 71:1-14, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, and John 12:20-36
Holy Wednesday - Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 70, Hebrews 12:1-3, and John 13:21-32

Maundy Thursday
"Maundy" comes from the Latin mandatum which means "commandment." This comes from the story in John's gospel where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and says "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34). On Maundy Thursday we remember that story and the story of Jesus' last supper with his disciples.
Recommended Readings:
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Good Friday
This day we remember Jesus' crucifixion and death. We can call this day "good" even though it is sad because it was a holy and gracious day that showed us the depth of God's love for us when Jesus sacrificed himself for us on the cross.
Recommended Readings:
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

Holy Saturday
On this day we remember Jesus' burial in the tomb. This was a day of sorrow and fear for the disciples, who did not realize that Jesus would rise from the dead the next day.
Recommended Readings:
Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
1 Peter 4:1-8 
Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

Of course, this is the day that we celebrate Jesus' resurrection! Easter is the central feast day of the whole church year.
Recommended Readings: 
Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43 
John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

Check to see if your church or another local church offers services this week. If you travel, I recommend finding a church of your choice that has Holy Week services. If you cannot attend services during the week, then I recommend that you read scripture and pray to help yourself (and your family) work through this week. I wish you a blessed Holy Week!