Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Passion Sunday: Triumph and sadness
Holy Week begins April 9, with the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, known as Palm — or Passion — Sunday. The palms we carry and the tone of the service signify this note of triumph, yet there is that underlying theme of sadness that permeates the service. This sadness is particularly emphasized in the reading of the Passion Narrative.
With this service, in the blessing and distribution of the palms, we begin our journey through Holy Week. We trace the footsteps of our Savior through the streets of Jerusalem, to the upper room where the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist was initiated. We stand by helpless during the arrest, and then we march to the Cross and the pain of Good Friday. We experience the despair of Holy Saturday and the vigil of hope in the Resurrection of Easter Day on the eve of that hallowed festival. We journey with our Savior because we seem, in him, to find resurrection to a new life; a life of grace.
If you would experience the true joy of the Resurrection on Easter Day, you must walk the pilgrimage of Holy Week. Make a commitment to yourself now that you will faithfully attend Holy Week services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
Maundy Thursday: Will we wait with him?
Most of us remember that Maundy Thursday is the feast of the institution of the Lord’s Supper — the Holy Eucharist. The word “maundy” derives from the Latin mandatum, or command, from the words spoken by Jesus to his disciples after washing their feet at the Last Supper, “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, NRSV)
Maundy Thursday is also the commemoration of the Passover for Christians. The Passover established the covenant with Moses (the Old Covenant or Testament). For us, this night begins the new Passover (the New Covenant; the New Testament) when our sins are passed over and the Lamb of God is given over to be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world, once and for all. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist in remembrance of the importance of this night to our salvation, and we strip the church and the altar bare as it becomes the tomb into which our Lord’s sacred corpse was laid. We then take on a fast from the Holy Eucharist; a fast that can only be broken by the power of the Resurrection we experience on Easter morning.
Maundy Thursday services at St. Andrew’s will be held April 13 at 7 p.m. The evening services will feature our annual dramatic presentation of “The Twelve Voices of Easter.” (Click here to see photos of last year's presentation and other Holy Week activities.)
We, like Peter, John and James, are asked that fateful question: Will none of you wait with me? Will we wait with our Lord? Will we follow him to Calvary?
Good Friday: Sharing in the suffering of our Lord
For many, Good Friday is the second most holy day of the year, coming only behind Easter. It is a fast day of the Church, when Christians are asked to fast from solid food from dawn until dusk. We experience our own suffering as a symbol of our sharing in the suffering of Christ. Our Lord stands betrayed by us all, hung on a cross to die as a common criminal. The Lamb is sacrificed for the sins of the world.
We continue our fast from the Holy Eucharist and we spend the day in prayer. The Good Friday Litrugy will be offered at Noon and 7 p.m. on April 14. We'll walk the Stations of the Cross before the evening Good Friday Liturgy at 6 p.m.
On Good Friday we are left with ambiguous feelings. It is “good” because in the death of this God-Man Jesus, we find our hope for salvation. It is also a sad time when we look upon the plight of our species and realize how truly blind we are. We saw God in human form and mistook him for a common criminal. It is little wonder that many eyes well up with tears at the Good Friday Liturgy.
Won’t you come walk the journey of the Cross on this Good Friday? Won’t you come and experience the incredible gift of love that is given to us in the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; who takes away your sins, and mine?
Won’t you come and be there when we crucify our Lord?
What are the Stations of the Cross?
The Stations of the Cross — also known as the “Way of the Cross,” the “Way of Sorrows” or the “Via Dolorosa” — is an ancient service commemorating the events of Christ’s Passion. The service, which replicates the walk made by Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land as early as the 4th Century, features 14 meditations — at St. Andrew’s, said before a series of plaques lining the interior walls of the church, each of which bear a visual representation of one of the traditional events surrounding Jesus’ arrest, trial crucifixion and burial.
Each meditation ends begins with an acclamation of praise...
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
...and ends with a prayer:
holy and mighty,
holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.
The congregation traditionally processes from one plaque to the other, gathering at the conclusion of the service around the altar, where rests a large wooden cross symbolic of the cross on which Christ was crucified. Participants in the service many also sit quietly in the pews during the service.
Traditional stations are:
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus takes up his cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets his afflicted mother
5. The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene
6. A woman wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls a second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls a third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Every Friday afternoon, Franciscan monks lead a procession winding through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem folowing the “Via Dolorosa.” Click here to take a visual tour of the stations of the Cross in Jerusalem.
Click here for visual representations of each of the Stations, with devotionals, from the Eternal Word Television Network. Click here for for a multi-media presentation of the Stations of the Cross, especially suited for children.
Holy Saturday : Anew flame; a new hope
On Holy Saturday, April 15, we will gather at 7 p.m. for the Easter Vigil. This will include the lighting of the new flame: The hope that life will conquer death; that light will vanquish darkness. We will hear the re-telling of the mighty works of God from the stories in Scripture. We will hear the chanting of the Exsultet, the ancient prayer at the lighting of the Pascal Candle, after the candle has been censed. We will renew our baptismal vows, reminding us that through the waters of baptism we seek life from death, light from darkness, resurrection of the faithful with Christ. And then we will go home to keep the Vigil in our hearts, anxiously awaiting the rising of the sun, and the news that He is Risen!
We will not receive Holy Eucharist on this night, as we keep our fast from our Lord’s most precious Body and Blood; as we await the gift of his grace in the triumphal note of resurrection on Easter morning. We will go home and wait — that is the meaning of vigil.
If anyone desires the sacrament of Baptism for themselves or their child, they should one of the clergy so that instruction can be arranged. It is particularly appropriate to baptize those who come to Christ in faith on this most holy night. It especially emphasizes St. Paul’s words that if we die with him in a death like his, we shall surely be raised from the dead in a resurrection like his.
Join us on Holy Saturday, as we wait for the triumphant resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; resurrection both now in our lives, and at the end of time.
— Holy Week reflections above by Fr. Ron Baird, coypright © by the author
Mary of Magdala: ‘I have seen the Lord!’
She stands on a hillside outside of Jerusalem, at the foot of a crude wooden cross bearing the broken and battered body of a man she had come to know...to love...to follow...
Before we hear the last of her, she will stand at the beginning of the Easter story as first witness to the most glorious event in the history of the world. But on that Friday outside of Jerusalem, she stands at the feet of a man dying one of the most horrific deaths possible.
Who is this woman? And where is her faith on this Friday afternoon? When she looked up into the eyes of Jesus of Nazareth — his body hanging beneath a hastily written sign proclaiming him “King of the Jews” — whose eyes did she believe she was looking into?
All Scripture really tells us of Mary of Magdala up until that fateful Friday is that she was the woman from whom Jesus had cast seven demons. And we know that she was a follower of his because all four Gospel writers place her — sometimes at the head of the list — among a group of women who traveled with him and his disciples throughout Galilee.
We don’t know what those seven demons Jesus cast from her were, but we do know that the number seven is often used in the Bible to mean “perfect” or “whole.”
So whether Mary of Magdala’s seven demons were evil spirits, a mental illness, the sin of prostitution or some other infirmity is not important. What is important is the reference to “seven demons,” which I believe tells us is that she was a woman completely separated from the light and love of God, which is the ultimate sin.
And she lived in darkness...until she met Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus touched her, and drew her out of that darkness into light. Out of death into life. And her life was so dramatically changed, that she was compelled to follow him not only throughout Galilee, but even to that hill outside of Jerusalem, to the foot of his cross on that Friday afternoon.
In 1999 I had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land with a group of 20-plus people from our parish. Several of us wanted to see Migdol, the site of the Biblical Magdala. And as our bus driver slowed along the side of the road just long enough for us to snap a picture of the closed-off archaeological dig site, I was struck by the fact that the remains of the ancient city of Magdala — hometown of the primary witness to the resurrection of our Lord — barely peeked above the surface of the ground.
Excavation there had stalled, monies for archaeological research having been spent instead on uncovering more prominent Biblical sites such as Capernaum, hometown of many of the twelve called by Jesus to be his disciples, and where Jesus spent much of his earthly ministry.
And although Capernaum — which is located just around the bend from Magdala on the sea of Galilee —was one of my favorite places in Israel, and where the Gospels truly began to came alive for me, I couldn’t help but ask, “Where were those 12 men on that Friday afternoon?”
The Gospels tell us that after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before, they “deserted him and fled.” Peter, the “rock” upon whom Jesus would build his Church, would deny three times that he even knew him; Judas would betray him with a kiss and hang himself in ultimate despair because of it.
And at noon the next day, as our Lord was nailed to a cross, and raised up to be crucified, the others, save John, would huddle together in a locked room in fear that they, too, would be arrested and put to death because of their association with Jesus.
Some time earlier, while preaching in Capernaum, Jesus had noted that many of his followers had already fallen away. It seems the message he preached, and the kingdom he spoke of, was quite different that the kingdom they had imagined the Messiah would establish here on earth. And he asked his disciples if they, too, would flee. And Peter said, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Yet it was Mary Magdalene who lived out that proclamation that Friday afternoon. Looking into the eyes of her dying Lord, she saw that even in this darkest hour, the light remained with him.
She had known what it was like to walk in darkness, separated from the eternal Word of God. And she knew that to go back into that darkness would bring her death. So even as she watched the light dim in his eyes, and the world grow dark at the hour of his death, she remained with him. For she had nowhere else to go. And she continued to follow him — even to the grave.
And in the breaking dawn of the third day, Mary went to the tomb where his body had been laid — to be near him once again, and to prepare his body for proper burial — but the tomb was empty! And for the first time, we hear that she was afraid — afraid because she did not know where to find her Lord, whom she longed to be near once again.
She must have felt her very life in peril, separated from him as she was. Yet she stayed, seeking to know from the man she thought was the gardener where he had been taken. And although she didn’t find his body, Jesus found her.
In one of most beautiful passage of all of Scripture, we hear Jesus speak: “Mary.” And she turns, and looks into the eyes of the resurrected Christ, and recognizes him as the one she had come to know, to love, to follow. “Rabbouni.” Teacher.
Mary Magdalene has become known as the patron saint of sinners. And many have wondered through the ages why our Lord would choose to first reveal himself in the Resurrection to a woman such as this.
I submit to you three reasons:
Will we be like Mary Magdalene?
If we will do these three things, then surely, we, like Mary of Magdala, will stand at the beginning of the Easter story. And Christ will reveal himself to us. He will wrap our mortal bodies in his risen body, and raise us to new and eternal life in his Resurrection.
— Reflection on Mary Magdalene by Judy Baird, Director of Membership & Communications, copyright © by the author.