A Holy Week Q&A

Why do we change the color from purple to red?

In order to set aside Holy Week as the culmination of Lent, we change the color from purple to red.  The red reminds us of the passion of Christ, particularly his death.  Red also reminds us of the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the week.

 

Why are we having services every night of the week?

The short answer is because it’s Holy Week.  The longer answer is that by gathering together daily during Holy Week, we remember the entire story.  We hear the lessons that tell us about the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and washing them with her hair and the story of Judas betraying Jesus, and Jesus knowing full well what was coming.  This one week out of the year we set aside as special, sacred time and walk with Jesus through his passion each day.

 

What does “Maundy” mean (as in Maundy Thursday)?

“Maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum” meaning command, or mandate.  It was on this evening, while with the 12 apostles, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34)”  We call this day Maundy Thursday to remember this new command.

 

Why do we wash feet on Maundy Thursday?

The short answer is simply because Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and told them to do likewise.  You can read that story in the gospel of John chapter 13. 

By taking on the role of a servant, we are reminded that humility and service are the characteristics of Christian leadership.  It’s also an uncomfortable experience to both have your feet washed and to wash someone else’s feet.  Through the act of foot-washing we are reminded that sometimes following Christ is uncomfortable. 

Though all are invited to come forward to have their feet washed and to wash someone else’s feet, it is not a requirement by any means.  If you choose to not participate in our ceremony of foot-washing you are invited to join in the singing or pray silently.

 

What’s the deal with stripping the Altar?

We strip the altar and remove all the candles, vessels, and decorations from the church as our last act of devotion on Maundy Thursday to remind us that this is the last Eucharist we will celebrate until Easter.  Just as Jesus was stripped of his garments when he was nailed to the cross, so we strip our altar as we remember his humiliation. 

 

What is the Stations of the Cross?

The Stations of the Cross (or Way of the Cross) refers to a series of artistic representations depicting Christ Carrying the Cross to his crucifixion.  Many churches contain Stations of the Cross images, typically placed at intervals along the side walls of the nave

On Good Friday we move along from image to image (or stations), say a prayer, and remember Christ’s own journey carrying the cross to Golgotha.  This is a particularly moving service since we physically move from station to station.   This year, St. Luke’s is offering a service of the Stations of the Cross at 12 noon on Good Friday.

 

Why do we consume all the bread and wine on Good Friday?

Good Friday is the day that Jesus died on the cross.  His physical life ended.  In our theology, we believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  We consume all the bread and wine that has been left in reserve (for communion on Good Friday and to take to those who are sick or shut-in) to remember his physical death.  Just as Christ’s body suffered and died, so his physical presence among us through the bread and wine (his body and blood) is out of our midst till the Easter Vigil.

 

Why is the Easter Vigil at sunrise on Sunday morning, instead of Saturday evening?

There is a general practice in the Episcopal Church to hold the Easter Vigil after sun-down on Saturday evening before Easter Day.  This is something that is neither wrong nor right, but left up to the preference and practice of the local congregation and priest.  Easter is about light triumphing over darkness, life over death.  That seems best expressed as we see the sun rise during our first celebration of the resurrection.  

 

What makes the Easter Vigil so special anyway?

According to our Book of Common Prayer, the Easter Vigil is THE central worship service of the entire Christian year.  It is bigger than Christmas Eve; bigger than Maundy Thursday or Good Friday; bigger than our Easter service later that morning.  The Great Vigil of Easter (or Easter Vigil), is patterned after the worship of the earliest Christians, centuries ago.  In it we move from the darkness of the tomb to the light of resurrection through fire, water, story and song.  Since this is the most important service of the Christian year expect incense, candlelight, baptisms, mystery, and more.

 

If I go to the Easter Vigil do I still need to go to the 10:00 A.M. Easter service?

The short answer is no, you have already gone to the main service of Easter.  The 10:00 service will still be a special service that is bigger and filled with more pageantry than a normal Sunday service, but if you have attended the Vigil, you’re truly experienced the resurrection, and there is no need to attend both services.

 

I heard you say the word, “Triduum.”  What does that mean?

“Triduum” simply means a three day period.  Specifically, Episcopalians will often use this word to describe the three days beginning with sun-down on Maundy Thursday through sun-down on Easter Sunday to express the overall unity of the passion story.  The Last Supper, crucifixion, lying in the tomb, and then the resurrection, form one story of God’s redeeming love and work in this world.  By calling these three days the “Triduum”, we remember that all of these services are connected, and part of one larger narrative of God’s salvation.

 

Are children welcome?

Yes of course!  The services during Holy Week are special to be sure, and sometimes we show that specialness by keeping silent in worship, but children learn that these days are different and special by coming and being involved – even if that means there is noise instead of silence.  It is by attending and participating that children and youth learn the significance of Holy Week in general and Easter in particular.  We all bear the responsibility of teaching future generations our faith and traditions, including the significance of this week.  So yes, children are always welcome!  There is a nursery/crying room available beside the doors to the nave of the church for the youngest children when they need to step out of the service.