Holy Week as Reenactment – March 25, 2018
Every Eucharist is a participation in Jesus’ passion, a mini-Holy Week and Easter. We remember and reenact Jesus’ Last Supper. We recall his death for us on a cross. We give thanks for the power of God at work in Jesus that overturned death and the grave. We give thanks that we too are invited into his resurrection life. Above all in Communion we remember Jesus. We literally re----member (re-connect) him. He comes together and is really present in the memory, in the community of the faithful who form his Body in the world and received in bits of bread and sips of wine.
Holy Week is a deeper, slower, more deliberate, more participatory re-membrance of Jesus’ passion and death.
All of Holy Week is a participatory drama. Today we walked with Jesus’ and his disciples, joining them in his joyful entrance into Jerusalem, waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna!” We then reviewed all the events of this Holy Week in the chanting of the Passion Gospel, the dramatic reading of his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, his trial, torture, crucifixion, death and burial.
I invite you into that deeper, slower, more deliberate and more participatory drama this Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday we remember and re-enact parts of Jesus’ Last Supper. Maundy Thursday was when Jesus and his disciples gathered to remember the Passover, when God passed over the Israelites and inflicted the last and most deadly plague on Egypt and finally set his people free from their bondage. Some years we focus more on the foot washing. This year we will focus on the Passover as we gather in the dining room at 6:30 pm to share in the Seder Supper.
Every Maundy Thursday closes with the stripping of the altar. It is our physical participation in Jesus’ arrest. Jesus would no longer be with his disciples in the same way. They would no longer be able to sit in his presence, no longer have long discussions with him, no longer watch as someone trimmed his beard or cut his hair. That was taken away from him. On Maundy Thursday we take Jesus’ presence out of our sanctuary, strip his altar of all the ways we are reminded that he is with us. We take the reserved sacrament and put it in the chapel – a chapel of repose. In larger parishes people often keep vigil in that chapel throughout the night, just as Jesus asked his disciples to stay with him, to watch and pray.
On Good Friday we remember the cross upon which our Lord was nailed, on which he hung in agony and died. At the Good Friday Prayer Book liturgy Friday evening we bring up a wooden cross, set it before us and invite people to come forward to touch it, to lean upon it, to kneel before it, to feel it’s hardness, to receive its power to heal, to restore and to forgive.
At the noon contemporary stations of the cross we will take the cross of Christ out into our city, thus proclaiming that Jesus’ passion and death touches not just us but all aspects of our world. This is the moment of atonement – Jesus’ at-one-ment – with all human pain and brokenness. We reflect on that this year in our contemporary stations touching on the horror of gun violence and school shootings, on the hurt and pain caused by domestic abuse and sexual misconduct, on opioid addiction, on immigration and homelessness.
At the end of the 7 pm Good Friday service, after those who want have received Holy Communion from the reserve sacrament, any consecrated bread and wine is consumed and the presence lamp extinguished. And so we remember Jesus’ body lying in death in the tomb, no longer present, no longer alive.
Saturday evening at the Easter Vigil we come to the realization of the battle between God and the powers of death. We start the service in darkness and light a new light. From the one single light many candles are lit and shine in the darkness. We tell of God’s mighty acts in the past – how God created the earth and the heavens, how God set his people free, how God promised to bring the dry bones of his peoples shattered hopes together, how he will establish a new covenant, how he will establish a new heaven and a new earth. This is the point where those who have been preparing through Lent are baptized and all of us are offered the chance to renew our baptismal covenant. Then in joyful fanfare, with the ringing of bells we celebrate anew the amazing good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
And that brings us to Easter Sunday – a day of joy. We fill the air with the fragrance of flowers. We wear our best and put out our Easter finery. For Christ has triumphed over death and we are renewed.
I invite you to participate in Holy Week. For only as we participate in the events of the triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday can we come to the fullness of Easter joy. We remember Jesus’ passion every Eucharist, but in Holy Week we have a deeper, slower, more deliberate, more participatory re-membrance of Jesus’ passion and death. I encourage you to participate in at least a couple of these powerful worship services of reenactment. They will help bring you to the fullness of Easter joy.