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Holy Week Services

This year, Holy Week comes early…it is the last week in March, with Easter landing on March 31st. 

We hope you will consider attending services during Holy Week in addition to our service on Easter. Below are listed descriptions of the services that provide insight into our traditions and those of other Christians who celebrate Holy Week.



Palm-Passion Sunday, March 24th

Services for Palm-Passion Sunday will occur at the usual times of 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. The congregation will assemble outside the church to start of the liturgy, which replicates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Palm fronds will be distributed.

The gospel reading that morning will be the passion story. This year, the Gospel of Luke will be read.





Tenebrae, March 27th

The Service Of Tenebrae (Darkness) occurs on Wednesday evening. It is an ancient monastic service derived from two Offices (Matins and Lauds) traditionally done at night. A series of psalms and other scriptures are read or chanted.

The principal Tenebrae ceremony is the gradual extinguishing of candles upon a stand in the sanctuary called a hearse. In the Roman Rite, fifteen candles, one of which is extinguished after each of the nine psalms of Matins and the five of Lauds, gradually reduces the lighting throughout the service. The six altar candles are put out during the Benedictus, and then any remaining lights in the church. The last candle is hidden beneath the altar, ending the service in total darkness. The strepitus (Latin for "great noise"), made by slamming a book shut, banging a hymnal or breviary against the pew, or stomping on the floor, symbolizes the earthquake that followed Christ's death, although it may have originated as a simple signal to depart. Following the great noise, the candle which had been hidden from view is returned to the top of the hearse, signifying the return of Christ to the world with the Resurrection, and all depart in silence.


Maundy Thursday, March 28th

Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday and Thursday of Mysteries) is the Christian feast, or holy day, falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the gospels. It is the fifth day of Holy Week. The liturgy held on the evening of Maundy Thursday initiates the Easter Triduum, the period which commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ; this period includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ends on the evening of Easter. The mass or service of worship is normally celebrated in the evening, when Friday begins according to Jewish tradition, as the Last Supper was held on feast of Passover.

Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the Mandatum ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, often 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.

Others theorize that the English name "Maundy Thursday" arose from "maundsor baskets" or "maundy purses" of alms which the king of England distributed to certain poor at Whitehall before attending Mass on that day. Thus, "maund" is connected to the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg.

Holy Thursday is notable for being the day on which the chrism mass is celebrated in each diocese. Usually held in the diocese's cathedral, in this mass the holy oils are blessed by the bishop, consisting of the chrism, oil of the sick, and oil of catechumens. The oil of the catechumens and chrism are to be used on the coming Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil, for the baptism and confirmation of those entering the church

The Washing of the Feet is a traditional component of the celebration in many Christian Churches, including the Armenian, Ethiopian, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Schwarzenau Brethren/German Baptist groups, Churches of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Roman Catholic Churches, and is becoming increasingly popular as a part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy in the Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches,[ as well as in other Protestant denominations. After the homily the washing of feet may be performed. The service concludes with a procession taking the Blessed Sacrament to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose. In pre-1970 editions, the Roman Missal envisages this being done ceremonially, to the accompaniment of a psalm, a practice which continues in many Anglican churches. In other Christian denominations, such as the Lutheran Church or Methodist Church, the stripping of the altar and other items on the chancel also occurs, as a preparation for the somber Good Friday service.


Good Friday, March 29th

Good Friday (using the word good to mean pious or holy) is a religious holiday observed by Christians to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday, or Easter Friday, though the latter properly refers to the Friday in Easter week.

Based on the details of the gospels, the Crucifixion of Jesus was most likely to have been on a Friday. The estimated year of the Crucifixion is AD 33, by two different groups, and originally as AD 34 by Isaac Newton via the differences between the Biblical and Julian calendars and the crescent of the moon. A third method, using a completely different astronomical approach based on a lunar Crucifixion darkness and eclipse model (consistent with Apostle Peter's reference to a "moon of blood" in Acts 2:20), points to Friday, 3 April AD 33.

The Catholic Church treats Good Friday as a fast day, which in the Latin Rite of the Church is understood as having only one full meal (but smaller than a regular meal) and two collations (a smaller repast, two of which together do not equal one full meal) and on which the faithful abstain from eating meat. In countries where Good Friday is not a day of rest from work, the afternoon liturgical service is usually put off until the evening.

The liturgy can consist of three parts: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.

The Liturgy of the Word consists of the clergy and assisting ministers entering in complete silence, without any singing. They then silently make a full prostration,  signifying]= both the abasement of earthly man, and also the grief and sorrow of the Church. Then follows the Collect prayer, and the reading or chanting from Isaiah, Hebrews, and the Passion account from the Gospel of John, traditionally divided between three readers, yet often divided between the celebrant and more than one singer or reader. This part of the liturgy concludes with the orationes sollemnes, a series of prayers for the Church, the clergy and laity of the Church, those preparing for baptism, the unity of Christians, the Jewish people, those who do not believe in Christ, those who do not believe in God, those in public office, those in special need.  After each prayer intention, the deacon calls the faithful to kneel for a short period of private prayer; the celebrant then sums up the prayer intention with a Collect-style prayer.

The Adoration of the Cross, has a crucifix, not necessarily the one that is normally on or near the altar at other times, solemnly displayed to the congregation and then venerated by them, individually if possible and optionally by kissing the wood of the cross, while hymns and the Improperia ("Reproaches") with the Trisagion hymn are chanted.

If Holy Communion is distributed,  it is served from the sacrement consecrated at the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. 

At the end of the service, the priest and people depart in silence, and, if present, the altar cloth is removed, leaving the altar bare except for the cross and two or four candlesticks.



Holy Saturday, March 30th

Holy Saturday (Latin: Sabbatum Sanctum), sometimes known as Easter Eve or Black Saturday, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter. It commemorates the day that Jesus Christ's body laid in the tomb.

Holy Saturday is sometimes called Easter Saturday, though this phrase is more correctly applied to the Saturday in Easter Week.

In Western liturgical churches, the chancel remains stripped completely bare (following the Mass on Maundy Thursday) while the administration of the sacraments is severely limited. Holy Communion after the Good Friday service is given only as Viaticum to the dying. Baptism, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick may be administered because they, like Viaticum, are helpful to ensuring salvation for the dying.

All Masses are severely limited. No Mass at all appears in the normal liturgy for this day, although Mass can be said on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday for an extremely grave or solemn situation with a dispensation from the Vatican or the local bishop. Many of the churches of the Anglican Communion as well as Lutheran, Methodist, and some other Churches observe most of the same; however, altars in these traditions can be covered in black instead of being stripped.

In some Anglican churches, including the Episcopal Church in the United States, provision is made for a simple Liturgy of the Word on this day, with readings commemorating the burial of Christ. Daily Offices are still observed.

Holy Saturday lasts until 6pm or dusk.



Great Vigil Of Easter, March 30th

Easter Vigil, also called the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, it is during this service that people are baptized and that adult catechumens are received into full communion with the Church. It is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day — most commonly in the evening of Holy Saturday or midnight — and is the first celebration of Easter, days traditionally being considered to begin at sunset.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches, the Easter Vigil is the most important service of public worship and Mass of the liturgical year; in the West it is the first celebration of the Gloria during the fifty-day long celebration of Easter, marked by the first use since the beginning of Lent of the exclamatory "Alleluia", a distinctive feature of the Easter season. Similarly, in the East, the extremely festive ceremonies and Divine Liturgy which are celebrated during the Easter Vigil are unique to that night and are the most elaborate and important of the ecclesiastical year and usher in the fifty-day long celebration and many people who only attend church services once a year do so at midnight for Easter.

The original twelve Old Testament readings for the Easter Vigil survive in an ancient manuscript belonging to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Armenian Easter Vigil also preserves what is believed to be the original length of the traditional gospel reading of the Easter Vigil, i.e., from the Last Supper account to the end of the Gospel according to Matthew.

In the earliest Jerusalem usage the vigil began with Psalm 117 [118] sung with the response, "This is the day which the Lord has made." Then followed twelve Old Testament readings, all but the last being followed by a prayer with kneeling. (1) Genesis 1:1--3:24 (the story of creation); (2) Genesis 22:1-18 (the binding of Isaac); (3) Exodus 12:1-24 (the Passover charter narrative); (4) Jonah 1:1--4:11 (the story of Jonah); (5) Exodus 14:24--15:21 (crossing of the Red Sea); (6) Isaiah 60:1-13 (the promise to Jerusalem); (7) Job 38:2-28 (the Lord's answer to Job); (8) 2 Kings 2:1-22 (the assumption of Elijah); (9) Jeremiah 31:31-34 (the new covenant); (10) Joshua 1:1-9 (entry into the Promised Land); (11) Ezekiel 37:1-14 (the valley of dry bones); (12) Daniel 3:1-29 (the story of the three youths).

The twelfth reading leads into the Song of the Three Children and is not followed by a prayer with kneeling, but is immediately followed by the prokeimenon of the Eucharistic liturgy. Thomas Talley stresses the importance of this series of reading as representing the oldest known series and the one evidently having the very greatest influence on the development of all subsequent series of readings.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Easter Vigil consists of four parts:

Service of Light
Liturgy of the Word
Baptism
Holy Eucharist

Because the new liturgical day begins at sunset, the vigil begins between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday outside the church, where an Easter fire is kindled and the Paschal candle is blessed and then lit. This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, remaining in the sanctuary of the church or near the lectern, and throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, reminding all that Christ is "light and life."

Once the candle has been lit there follows the ancient and dramatic rite of the Lucernarium, in which the candle is carried by a deacon through the nave of the church, itself in complete darkness, stopping three times to chant an acclamation such as 'Christ our Light' or 'Light of Christ' to which the assembly responds 'Thanks be to God'. This ceremony was once common in the Church, often occurred at Vespers and is still retained by Lutherans as official Vespers liturgical practice. Some congregations have restored this practice at Vespers, but it is most commonly seen at the Easter Vigil.

As the candle proceeds through the church, all present (i.e. those who have received the "Light of Christ") receive candles which are lit from the Paschal candle. As this symbolic "Light of Christ" spreads throughout those gathered, the darkness is decreased.

The deacon, priest, or a cantor now chants the Exsultet (also called the "Easter Proclamation" or "Paschal Praeconium"), after which the people take their seats as the liturgy of the word begins.

Once the candle has been placed on its stand in the sanctuary, the lights in the church are switched on and the assembly extinguish their candles (although in some churches, the custom is to continue the liturgy by candlelight until the Gloria).

The Liturgy of the Word consists of seven readings from the Old Testament, although it is permitted to reduce this number for pastoral reasons (if reduced, it is customary to use readings 1, 3, 5 and 7). The account of the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea is given particular attention in the readings since this event is at the centre of the Jewish Passover, which Christians believe Christ's death and resurrection is the fulfillment of. Each reading is followed by a psalm or biblical canticle sung responsorially and a prayer relating what has been read in the Old Testament to the Mystery of Christ. After these readings conclude, the candles are lit on the altar and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is sung for the first time since before Lent (with the exception of Holy Thursday, as well as any solemnities or feasts that occurred during Lent), and the church bells and the organ, silent since that point on Holy Thursday, are sounded again -although it is customary in some churches to have no organ playing during Lent at all, except when accompanying hymns. (In the pre-Vatican II rite, the statues, which have been covered during Passiontide, are unveiled at this time.) The opening collect is read. The reading from the Epistle to the Romans is proclaimed, followed by the chanting of Psalm 118. The Alleluia is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent - however, it is a very solemn alleluia at this time. The Gospel of the Resurrection then follows, along with a homily.

After the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, the water of the baptismal font is solemnly blessed and any catechumens and candidates for full communion are initiated into the church, by baptism and/or confirmation, respectively. After the celebration of these sacraments of initiation, the congregation renews their baptismal vows and receive the sprinkling of baptismal water. The prayers of the faithful (of which the newly baptised are now a part) follow.

After the prayers, the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues as usual. This is the first Mass of Easter Day. During the Eucharist, the newly baptized receive Holy Communion for the first time. According to the rubrics of the Missal, the Eucharist should finish before dawn.

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