April 12, 2011

Holy Weak

I have always joked that when Jesus comes out of the tomb on Easter I crawl in. This run between now and Easter Monday is a marathon of liturgical gymnastics that will leave all competent clergy absolutely spent.

Here is what we are doing at St. Andrew’s. The journey of Holy Week begins with our Palm Sunday procession from Green Lake to the church. It will follow its usual course leaving from Green Lake Park winding through our neighborhood and through the front doors of the church. As in the past, we will be led by two donkeys symbolizing the donkey and colt who led the first Palm Sunday procession. The service will close with a dramatic reading of the Passion narrative from the Gospel of Matthew.

Monday and Tuesday special evensong services will offer a contemplative setting and a service of healing. Wednesday will feature our third annual Tenebrae service. Then on Maundy Thursday our community sits down to an Agape Feast and interpretive Seder meal featuring roast lamb and symbolic foods from the Exodus story. The evening moves on to a foot-washing ceremony, a shared prayer service with the Armenian Church who worships with us Sunday afternoons followed by the stripping of the altar.

Good Friday we will join our partner church Bethany Lutheran for services in their sanctuary at noon and in our church at 7 p.m.

The Easter Vigil begins at 8 p.m. on April 23 with the lighting of the new fire. Our Evening Worship Team will lead the Service of Light and Lessons that opens this service. This means our Vigil with be a Taize Vigil.

Sunday morning the great feast of our faith, the Feast of the Resurrection, will be celebrated in services at 8 and 10 a.m. followed by the traditional Easter Egg hunt on the church’s lawn. Our Flowering Cross will be by the front door, a very old pious tradition where families bring flowers to the church on Easter morning. From my count, that will be 13 separate liturgies in eight days, not counting the Easter Egg Hunt as its own liturgy.

I am sure each Episcopal Church has some semblance of this same schedule, more or less. It is enough to wear anyone out. Holy Week’s events in Episcopal Churches has grown by fits and starts, interventions by various rectors, passionate interest of certain dedicated lay people, an overlay of the scriptural story, rediscoveries of ancient practices, and some pure schmaltz all to the end of glorifying God and our shared story of redemption and resurrection.

To what end, really?

Certainly out of no need of God’s. It instead grows out of our desperate desire to make meaning out of the chaos and destruction we witness in the world as well as to give thanks for the unbelievable gifts that are ours in creation. We will once again enact the great drama of our faith from Palm Sunday to the resurrection, never knowing the full meaning of this glorious, absolute mystery. Christ is risen, but I am exhausted.