Holy Week and Easter Worship

Holy Week and Easter

During Holy Week we celebrate the Triduum, or the Great Three Days which includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Celebration.  The three worship services during these days are actually one liturgy.  No benediction separates them.  On Thursday and Friday we leave worship to return and continue celebrating the great mystery of our redemption.

Maundy Thursday – April 18 – 6:30pm

Maundy means “command.”  In Jesus sharing the passover meal with his disciples, we find one of the central means by which we encounter God’s promises grace (sacraments) in our Lutheran tradition, Holy Communion.  As Jesus passes around bread to eat and wine to drink, we also hear his command to do this as often as we gather to be “re-membered” as the living body of Christ, to go and embody God’s love in the world.  As psalm 22 is read at the close of worship, the altar is stripped and all decorations are removed.  We are reminded that Christ walked from the supper to his humiliation and death.  We exit in silence.

Good Friday – April 19 – Noon and 6:30pm

We return in silence to a barren worship space.  As we hear the passion story according to St. John, we see the crucifixion as the glorification of Jesus.  Lifted up, he draws the whole world to himself.  We pray the bidding prayer which includes petitions for everyone in the world.  Thus we affirm – Christ died for all!  A rough-hewn cross is carried into the worship space.  In solemn adoration we behold the cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world.  In silence we meditate on the mystery of the crucified Savior.  After a closing hymn of victory and a final response of adoration we exit in silence.

Easter Morning – April 21st – 8:15am and 10:45am

Now we reach the pinnacle of our church year – the highest and holiest day.  The Easter festival is considered the central feast of the church and therefore lasts not just one day or one week but for a week of weeks – 50 days.  Our 40 day preparation for Easter – Lent – is then succeeded by 50 days of rejoicing.  During the Sundays of Easter we continue to celebrate the rich mystery of christ’s resurrection to new life out of death.

Easter Sunday is the earliest uniquely Christian festival, first mentioned by name in 130CE.  The date for Easter Sunday in the Western Church falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (March 20).  Therefore, Easter may fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25.

Within the sanctuary the somberness of the Lenten season and the scarlet of Holy Week gives way to the white and gold of the Easter season.  The chancel is bedecked with the trumpet shaped Easter lilies, and the trumpets resound.  The “Alleluia,” which was omitted during lent, returns and is shouted repeatedly.  “Alleluia! Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia,” we proclaim! The paschal candle now burns near the altar as the sign of the presence of the risen Christ.  Everything proclaims Christ’s victory over death and the grave.