Thursday, April 16, 2009

Holy Week and Easter

Jesus is Risen! Alleluia!

I love Holy Week and Easter, but it always throws me off track a bit. Part of it is simply the different schedule. Since I sing in the church choir, I'm there for everything, usually including Wednesday evening practice. I love all of the services, but there doesn't seem to be enough time to do them all and to get a full night's sleep.

But part of the reason I find the season difficult is all the emotions. On Thursday, we celebrate ministry, and this year I found myself reflecting on the great value of each individual's contribution. The whole of humanity was present Thursday, represented by the twelve who came up for the footwashing, male and female, old and young, of different nationalities. All had their feet washed by the priest. It was beautiful.

On Good Friday, we see the starkness of death, of loss, of the pain and suffering of Jesus. We also do the extended general intercessions, where we pray for people of all backgrounds throughout the world. We are reminded that Jesus suffered and died for each of us, but that there is still suffering all around. It is a painful day, a black day--and in fact, they used to wear black vestments on Good Friday. I'm glad that's not the practice any more.

Holy Saturday is just a weird day. Jesus is in the tomb--what do we do? Traditionally, this is the day we believe that he "harrowed hell," and released from death those who were holy, and brought them to heaven. It is a day of silence, and (since we know something big is coming) of preparation.

And then there is the joy of the Easter celebration. The Easter Vigil lies between, connecting the sorrow of death with the joy of the Resurrection. The rituals march us through the transition -- from darkness into light, from the Old Testament into the Gospel, from silence into joyful song with bells and organ. The Exsultet, sung at the beginning prepares us for what is to come:
Rejoice, heavenly powers!
Sing, choirs of angels!

Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

It makes me grin -- and cry -- every time. The joy is so palpable!


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