Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Week and Easter Services

I love the progression of services beginning with Palm Sunday through Holy Week, Maundy or Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

But I have noticed one or two things about possibilities with these services such that the reality of how things are done undermines aspects of the progression.

Let me give two examples. First is Maundy Thursday evening. There are a range of possibilities here from a 'Commemoration of the Last Supper' through a 'Service of Shadows' to a 'Celebration of a Passover Meal' to a mixture of two or more of such possibilities. My suggestion, to avoid undermining the focus on the suffering on the cross on Good Friday, is to make Commemoration of the Last Supper the primary service for the evening (an alternative is to have a Passover Meal). If this is conjoined with a Service of Shadows then let that take place after the Last Supper and let it be more attentive to the events of the night of betrayal than to the suffering on the cross.

A second example is Holy Saturday when most Catholic but only a few Anglican churches hold an Easter Vigil, a service with fire and water, readings and eucharist, and baptism/renewal of baptismal vows. Technically this service should be held around the hour of Midnight so the first eucharist of Easter is participated in during the morning rather than evening. But it makes sense for various reasons to hold the Vigil earlier in the evening. Naturally this service does celebrate Easter, the rising of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead (not least because in times very long past, this was the only service the church held at Easter). But the trick is to mute the celebration just a little so as to reserve the full celebration for Sunday morning after dawn. One way to do this is to avoid having a supper after the service!

Of course its possible that I am being a little fussy here. And I recognise that in Kiwiland we can be keen on a holiday at Easter time so a 'one stop liturgical shop' on (say) Maundy Thursday or Holy Saturday can help us have our holiday and fulfil worship commitments for these great days of commemoration and celebration. But I am always keen that we should THINK about what we are doing and why we are doing it and what are the intended and unintended consequences of what we do liturgically! Hence penning a few thoughts!

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