April 12, 2019
Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
-- Book of Common Prayer, p. 270
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week.
Even if you tend to think of next week more as "spring break" than Holy Week, I hope you find ways to enrich your Holy Week.
One of the best ways to do that is to engage the stories told (read aloud) in church during Holy Week.
One of the best ways to do that is by getting yourself to church on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.
If that's not possible, another best way is to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" the sacred story told of Jesus' last week on earth: ALL those events between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday which share not only "the" Passion of Jesus, but the passions Jesus had, and wanted us to share.
And in order to help with that -- in order to help you move fully into the story that unfolds over the course of Holy Week, and in order to help make sense of the events which happened between the time that Jesus entered Jerusalem and the time he was put on trial, crucified, and died, there are a few changes we are trying this year, to which we want to call your attention:
Instead of having four separate, disjointed leaflets for the four different liturgies of Holy Week, we've prepared one booklet containing all the liturgies and readings of Jesus' Passion which are observed and read during Holy Week, in chronological order. This booklet will be distributed in print on Palm Sunday, and is intended as a resource you can take with you. (It will also be shared electronically on Sunday afternoon, as well as posted on our website and in Realm.)
The Passion of Jesus typically read aloud on Palm Sunday is printed, in full, in the Holy Week leaflet. However, instead of reading ahead all the way through the events of Holy Week (as is typically done during the Palm Sunday service), what you will hear read aloud on Palm Sunday are those events and sayings of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke which worshippers typically do not get to hear as part of Jesus' passion: namely, the events and sayings which take place between the time of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the start of Maundy Thursday.
This, we hope, will set the stage for (and help make sense of) the tension which leads to Jesus' Last Supper and the other events later in Holy Week, as we end our Palm Sunday dramatic reading with the words, "So Judas consented, and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present." (Luke 22:6) At the end of the service on Palm Sunday, we disperse -- much like the crowds have dispersed -- and the next time we gather for worship (Maundy Thursday) it will be to remember Jesus' final meal in the upper room with his disciples.
It is then we will read aloud the continuation of the story as told in Luke 22:7-65.
And on Good Friday, we will read aloud the near-culmination of the story, the events which happened on Good Friday -- Luke 22:66-23:49.
Again, we are sharing, in the leaflet, the entire Passion story on Palm Sunday, the "Sunday of the Passion." The difference is that what you will hear read aloud on Palm Sunday (and then Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) are those events which took place on Palm Sunday (and then Maundy Thursday, and then Good Friday, and then Holy Saturday, respectively).
We do realize that not many people are able to attend all Holy Week services at The Falls Church.
However, that does not mean you cannot engage in Holy Week worship or enter into its sacred mysteries in other ways:
Find an Episcopal Church near your place of work (here is a sample list of area Episcopal churches near many work areas, along with their addresses and Holy Week service times).
Take (or download, after Sunday) our Holy Week leaflet and read through the entire passion, using it as a kind of spiritual resource.
It's said "you get as much out of something as you put into it."
That can be true as far as Holy Week and Easter Day are concerned: we can get a lot more passion out of Easter Sunday if we pay a lot more attention to the Passion of -- and the passions of -- Jesus during our Holy Week.
So we hope you welcome these changes as a way of helping you do what is possible, under your circumstances, to make the the story of Holy Week a more meaningful part of your story.
See you Sunday, John