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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

The Rites of Holy Week


Holy Week is a solemn time to reflect upon the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ and to prepare for the glorious celebration of His resurrection from the dead. The word “holy” means “set apart for the worship of God.” We can set this week apart to worship God by reading the lessons from Scripture appointed for the days of Holy Week at home with our families and friends, and by participating in the liturgies of this Holy Week.


Maundy Thursday


Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before He suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP Page 274)


Throughout Lent, we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. Maundy Thursday is the final preparation. It was on this day that Jesus gave us perhaps the most difficult command to follow – a mandate, that, in almost all ways, supersedes all other law: “..that you love one another as I have loved you.”


Prior to giving His disciples this mandate, Jesus did some things which were strange to the disciples then and remain strange to many even to this day. First, He insisted on washing the feet of His disciples. While this was not uncommon in their day, what was uncommon was for the “master” or the “guest of honor” to do the washing. That was a job for the servants. Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for His mandate. How can you love as He did and does without first being a servant? He was also showing them that: “Unless you are washed you can have no part of me.” – a clear reference to baptism.


The second thing that Jesus did was to serve the Passover meal, after giving thanks, by saying that the bread was His body and the wine was His blood. “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Jesus has prepared the disciples; now He is giving them the strength to do what He has commanded them to do. When they remember Him, He will give them everything needed to love as He loved them.


The Maundy Thursday service includes the account from John’s Gospel of our Lord’s washing of the disciples’ feet. Following the Eucharist is the stripping the altar and the washing of the altar, symbolizing Jesus’ sacrifice and death.


Scriptures:

Exodus 12:1-14a

Psalm 78:14-20, 23-25

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (27-32)

John 13:1-15 or Luke 22:14-20


Overnight Vigil: The Watch before the Altar


After the Stripping of the Altar, The Watch before the Altar will begin. Many will find it very meaningful to come and meditate and pray in the presence of Jesus during this watch.


Scriptures:

John 18-19 Isaiah 53

Matthew 26-27 Romans 6, 8

Mark 14-15 Ephesians 2

Luke 22-23 Colossians 1, 2

Psalms 7, 22, 32, 38,40, 51, 69, 84, 102, 130, 143


Good Friday


Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP Page 276)


The observance of Good Friday at Grace Church incorporates the psalms and solemn collects of the ancient Church, the reading of the Passion from John’s Gospel, the procession of the cross, and Communion from the reserved sacrament consecrated on Maundy Thursday. This pattern allows us to connect with the ancient rich customs and traditions of the Church and it allows us to participate in the experience of our Lord’s death for our salvation.


Scriptures:

Isaiah 52:13--53:12, or Genesis 22:1-18

Psalm 22:1-21 or 40:1-14, or 69:1-23

Hebrews 10:1-25

John 18:1--19:37


Stations of the Cross


For the traditional Stations of the Cross, we have artist depictions of all fourteen Stations of the Cross made known to us through the knowledge we have of our Lord’s journey along the “Via Dolorosa” in Jerusalem where each moment of his suffering and agony becomes a reminder of his total sacrifice for each one of us personally. The congregation participates by moving together through our Church during the liturgy and taking turns with the various short readings.


The Great Vigil


The Great Vigil is the first liturgy of Easter Day; it is celebrated between sunrise on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter morning. It brings together many of the traditions and stories of the peoples’ experience of God’s saving acts in history. It marks the death and resurrection of our Lord. The Vigil consists of four parts: Service of Light; Service of Lessons; Baptism or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows; and Holy Eucharist and dates from at least the early Second Century.


The celebrant lights the Paschal Candle and reads the prayers and the Service of Light begins. The deacon then processes into the dark church with the Paschal Candle, pausing three times to sing the acclamation “The Light of Christ”.


The Vigil lessons form a separate Liturgy of the Word from the Eucharistic lessons which come later. These lessons recount the salvation history of God for His people: the story of creation, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac; crossing the Red Sea and the Exodus, and the prophecies of redemption.


At the conclusion of the renewal of the Baptismal Covenant, the altar candles are lighted from the Paschal Candle and the Easter proclamation: “The Lord is Risen” is made. The celebration of the first Easter Eucharist follows with many “alleluias and much joy.


Scriptures:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a [The Story of Creation] Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel's deliverance at the Red Sea] Ezekiel 36:24-28 [A new heart and a new spirit] Ezekiel 37:1-14 [The valley of dry bones]

At The Eucharist

Romans 6:3-11 Psalm 114 Matthew 28:1-10


Easter Festival Eucharist

The Easter Day service is characterized by joy as we celebrate the wonder of the resurrection. To be sure, Jesus was raised from the dead, breaking the bonds of sin and death for all who believe in His name.

Scriptures:


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