Monday, April 2, 2012

Brief Explanation of Holy Week

Join us for all the Holy Week services at Sure Foundation:
  • Maundy Thursday - 7pm
  • Good Friday - 5pm and 7pm
  • Easter Sunday - 9:30am
Holy Week came into existence as an intense period of preparation (prayer and fasting) for Easter. It begins with Palm Sunday, where in the fourth century Jerusalem the distinctive feature was the palm procession from the Mount of Olives back into the city. The 1969 Roman calendar changed the title of the first day of Holy Week from Palm to Passion Sunday, a changes that has been accepted by the calendars of a number of hymnals. Christian Worship (our hymnal at Sure Foundation) retains the emphasis on the events of Palm Sunday.
Maundy Thursday (from the Latin mandatum, “command,” John 13:34) recalls Christ’s institution of Holy Communion at the Last Supper on the night in which he was betrayed. During the Passover meal, Jesus gave the disciples his body and blood together with the bread and the wine. Each time we celebrate this sacrament we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The Last Supper Altarpiece in Wittenberg Church,
by Lucas Cranch the Younger

Good Friday is the solemn celebration of the Lord’s suffering and death on the cross. Some congregations will remember the three hours of darkness from noon till three o’clock with a tenebrae (darkness) service. Augustine called the three days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter “the most holy triduum (three days) of the crucified, buried and risen Lord.”

From the Cross,
by James Tissot

Easter Sunday
Among the Sunday of the year, Easter Sunday has the place of prominence. On this day, the church celebrates the resurrection of Christ from death and the restoration of life to those dead in trespasses and sins. All who have been buried with Christ through baptism are united with him in his resurrection and walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4-5). . . . By the second century the feast of Easter had developed as an annual commemoration. The festival day was soon preceded by a time of fasting in preparation for the celebration followed by a fifty-day season rejoicing concluded by Pentecost. The date for Easter differs from year to year because it is established by the phases of the moon (as was the Jewish festival of Passover). The Festival of the Resurrection is celebrated annually on the first Sunday after the first full moon (14th of Nisan in the Jewish calendar) after the vernal equinox. Preparations for the celebration of the festival itself began already on Saturday night with the Easter vigil. One early Christian writing says: “Watch all night in prayers, supplications, the reading of the prophets, of the Gospel and of psalms in fear and trembling and continual supplication until three in the morning.” The church father Augustine (d. 430) called this “the mother of all vigils” and no fewer than twenty-three of his sermons for the occasion have survived. From Hippolytus (d. ca 235) we learn how during the Easter vigil those persons who had completed a period of study for membership in the church were baptized.
(Christian Worship: Manual p. 370, 372)

Isenheim Altarpiece,
by Matthias Grunewald