Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Holy Week Explained

This week is a busy week in the Lutheran Church--it's Holy Week, which is the last week of Lent before Easter. I thought I'd take a minute to explain Holy Week, since not all sects of the Christian church celebrate it.

Sunday- Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday. The church celebrates Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem just prior to the crucifixion. This special service includes a processional where the participants carry in blessed palm branches--again, a remembrance of the way that Jesus entered Jerusalem. See John 12: 12-19.

Monday to Wednesday- These days are considered "Holy Days", but no specific events happened. They lead up to the Last Supper.

Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday)- This day commemorates the Last Supper, and also the day in which Jesus introduced what we now call communion. During a part of the service called the Gloria, all of the bells (and sometimes other instruments) play vividly. At the last verse, all of the instruments stop, and are not played again until Easter morning. Sometimes, the pastor washes the feet of 12 men (to symbolize the washing the feet of Jesus and the Apostles). At the end of the service, the Altar is stripped (everything is taken off) while the Pastor recites Psalm 21. All crosses are either taken out of the church, or covered.

Good Friday- I've always thought the name was interesting, because there just isn't anything good about it. Good Friday is essentially a somber remembrance of the crucifixion. The first part of the service typically includes reading Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and segments from Hebrews and the Gospel of John. The crucifix (or the cross in non-Catholic churches) is typically displayed. Some churches pray at the Stations of the Cross. One of the churches we go to typically does the Stations of the Cross, the other typically does a shadow drama depicting the events leading up to and including the crucifixion. In many places, people don't go to work or school on Good Friday--the entire day is for prayer.

Between Good Friday and Easter: In the Apostle's Creed, we say "He suffered death and was burried, he descended into hell, and on the third day he rose again." His descent into hell would have happened during the time between Good Friday and Easter. It's important to note that some churches say "he descended to the dead"--essentially, the point that they're trying to get across is that at that time, " hell" is not how we think of it now. It was basically the world of the dead.

Sunday-Easter- Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and his ascent to Heaven. His resurrection reconciled us to our Creator. Our sins have been washed clean by Jesus' death on the cross. This idea is explained in the oft quoted John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

That's it--Holy Week in a nutshell!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for doing this. I became a Christian this fall and this our family's first REAL Easter. So, I am trying to learn and take as much in as possible.


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