The Liturgy of Easter Eve

A priest incensing the Paschal Candle during t...

A priest incensing the Paschal Candle during the Easter Vigil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We welcome you to this combined service of the communities of St. Paul’s and St. Andrew’s in the Valley. All baptized persons are welcome to receive Holy Communion tonight. If you are here on Easter Day, you may receive Communion again. We hope that this celebration of the Lord’s resurrection is a meaningful part of your observance of Holy Week and Easter.

 

Although it is now more common for people to go to church on Easter Day, this was not always so. This service on Easter Eve is the most ancient Easter celebration of the Church. In the earliest days of the church Christians were meeting before dawn to celebrate the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection. At one time all of what we now call Holy Week was commemorated during this service. Our ancestors began the Vigil in the darkness of night to recall the darkness of death, and by the time the Vigil and Eucharist were finished, the sun had risen, a sign of new life.

 

Over the centuries the liturgy developed. The other days of Holy Week were celebrated separately, and the Easter Vigil became focused on the resurrection. Still, Christians gathered in darkness, and a fire was lit. Fire is a universal symbol of life, and from that fire each one takes a flame. The story of salvation was remembered, the resurrection proclaimed, and the Eucharist celebrated with thanksgiving and solemnity.

 

By the early third century, this service was also closely associated with baptism, and it became the normal time for the admission of new Christians to the Church. This is because of the close association in Christian understanding between baptism and the death and resurrection of Jesus. When we are baptized, we become participants in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and this was once powerfully symbolized when baptismal candidates, descending into the baptismal pool (as if in death), were baptized, and ascended to be clothed in white (as if to resurrection).

 

Notable in this service is the Paschal, or Easter, Candle. “Paschal” is simply another word for Easter, and it comes from the Greek word paschal, which means “Passover.” For Easter is the Christian Passover. Indeed this service is properly called the “Paschal Vigil.” The Paschal Candle is both a sign of resurrection, and a sign of the presence of the risen Christ himself. It remains in a prominent position in the church throughout the Easter season until Pentecost, when it is placed near the baptismal font. Because of its close association with Easter and with baptism, the Paschal Candle is then used throughout the year at baptisms and funerals.

 

Easter is the “Feast of Feasts,” a declaration that nothing is more powerful than the love of God. By celebrating Easter in this very dramatic fashion, we allow the truth of this declaration to speak to us not just in an intellectual way, but in a way that also engages the senses and the emotions.

 

 

 

The Liturgy of the Lord’s Death on Good Friday

 

Mourning of Jesus

Mourning of Jesus

Good Friday is the second of the “Great Three Days” (in Latin, Triduum sacrum), and it is the most somber and desolate day of the Christian Calendar. The sanctuary is completely bare. Good Friday teaches us that we must die with Jesus, who died for us.

Egeria describes the veneration of the Cross, which was held by the Bishop for the faithful to kiss. In our own day, the practice of veneration has broadened to include touching with the hand or a simple bow, but all three actions are signs of reverence and thanksgiving for our Lord’s sacrifice on our behalf.

The Way of the Cross is a pilgrimage of devotion, drawing us deeper into our relationship with Christ. We pray, hear the story and meditate on that moment in Christ’s walk to his crucifixion.

Good Friday and Ash Wednesday are the only two days of the year when Christians are encouraged to fast as rigorously as their health and circumstances permit, as a further devotion to our Lord.

Christ our victim Whose beauty was disfigured And whose body torn upon the cross; Open wide your arms To embrace our tortured world, That we may not turn away our eyes, But abandon ourselves to your mercy; For you live and love with the Father And the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen

 

The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday

Christ Washes the Disciples Feet

Christ Washes the Disciples Feet

We welcome you to Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church and this service. All are encouraged to receive Holy Communion tonight, even if you have received communion at another service today. We hope that our celebration of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist is a meaningful part of your observance of Holy Week and Easter.

Properly, the season of Lent ends this evening, and the period called the Great Three Days” (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) begins. So, this service marks “the beginning of the end”. From this point, a natural momentum drives us through Good Friday and Holy Saturday to Easter Eve.

This day gets its name from the Latin word Mandatum, which means “commandment”. This refers to Jesus’ words to his disciples on this night: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another”. (John 13:34) Jesus expressed this commandment of love and this spirit of service by washing his disciples’ feet and action which, in Jesus’ day was reserved for the lowest slave in the household.

As a sign that we are called to follow Jesus’ example of love and service, the celebrant removes his chasuble, ties his stole across his chest in the manner of a deacon (a word which itself means “servant”), and washes and dries the feet of twelve persons. This is a simple, but eloquent illustration of our Gospel reading tonight, and emphasizes the constant necessity of works of charity and generosity, even in times of great difficulty. The Eucharist tonight is itself a feast in which we give thanks to God for the sacrament of the Holy Communion. Our weekly Sunday Eucharist is a regular re-living of this last meal spent with friends, and we honor the night in which Jesus gave us this pledge of his continual presence in our midst. For every time we celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus himself is really present with us, just as he was present in the Upper Room. And we are in that Upper Room too.

After we have received Communion, the celebrant, acolytes, and members of the Altar Guild strip the main sanctuary of all ornamentation. When the sanctuary is completely cleared, the celebrant washes the altar table, and the church is left bare for Good Friday. During the stripping of the altar, the congregation sits to say Psalm 22, a psalm of desolation, penitence, and hope.

O Jesus our brother, Whose feet were caressed With perfume and a woman’s hair, You humbly took basin and towel And washed the feet of your friends Wash us also in your tenderness As we touch each other, That, embracing your service freely, We may accept no other bondage; For you live and love with the Father And the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen*

 

The Liturgy of Palm Sunday

We welcome you to Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church and to this service. All are welcome to receive Holy Communion today. We hope that this commemoration of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem is a meaningful part of your observance of Holy Week and Easter.

The Liturgies of Holy Week are full of drama, movement, symbolic action and remembrance. They all fit together into an entire liturgical experience, and they offer profound riches to those who give themselves to the entire cycle of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday evening, Good Friday evening, Easter Eve, and Easter Day. It may seem like a lot of church for one week, but these services bring us to the heart of our Christian faith, and we shall never begin to understand that faith unless we are willing to walk with Jesus now. Over a lifetime, these services mold the Christian sensibility and forge the Christian soul.

As you enter into the mystery of this week, let the actions, words, symbols, and drama carry you along. Not everything will strike you with equal force, and some things may even be a little strange. But nothing happens this week without a reason, even if that reason is not immediately evident. Some things cannot be explained; they can only be experienced. And having been experienced, they must be allowed to work their transformation within the believer. Though we all feel moments of power and inspiration, this transformation – this conversion – does not happen at once. Little by little, step-by-step, the truths that Holy Week reveals to us become a part of our living conversation with God.

Our Holy Week services first took shape in fourth-century Jerusalem after the time of Constantine, when it became possible for Christians to worship at the sites which have been traditionally associated with Jesus’ last days, and these observances were taken by pilgrims back in their churches at home. So the custom spread of turning every church into a “little Jerusalem” for the re-enactment of the events of this week.

The Liturgy of Palm Sunday begins on a triumphant note, as we bless palms and remember the cheering crowds who welcomed Jesus in Jerusalem. But very quickly we are reminded, in the reading of the Passion Gospel, that this same crowd had turned against Jesus by the end of the week. Human loyalties are extremely fragile. It is always easy to be loyal when things are going well: it is harder to stand by one’s loyalties when the going is tough.

With the exception of Maundy Thursday (when we wear white vestments because of the Feast of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist), the liturgical color of Holy Week is red. Red is the color both of blood and of fire, and signified that we are commemorating the death of the Prince of martyrs. The crosses are veiled to symbolize the solemnity of this week. This custom arouse originally to hide the beautiful and precious metals and stones which have often adorned cross and statues in churches, and has subsequently come to focus our attention away from the crosses to the liturgical action itself in which the clergy and others re-enact the Way of the Cross.

Palm Sunday 2013

Palm Sunday 2013 (Photo credit: redroofmontreal)

Lenten Reflection for Holy Saturday 3/30/2013

The Entombment

The Entombment

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 Job 14:1-14 1
Peter 4:1-8 Matthew 27:57-66
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourself also
with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is
done with sin.

It would seem to be understood, according to scripture, that we must
experience physical pain to find our center of faith and forgiveness.
Are these life lessons we must experience to find fulfillment
in our spiritual life and deepen our faith and trust in
God!!!!! If we are honest about ourselves we have harbored
thoughts if known would cause pain and discomfort to others. This
is our pain and probably continues throughout our life time. Our
faith controls our silent thoughts and transforms them into acts of
kindness.
I believe we earn our strength through challenging moments that are
emotional and often painful that take our breath away. Only through
these life experiences are we able to recognize and embrace others in
need of tender loving care.
Trudy Gaskins
Mother, Grandmother, Art Lover, Music enthusiast, Traveler, Book
lover

Lenten Reflection for Good Friday 3/29/2013

MFA_17-91-medium

Psalm 22 Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

Turn around and believe that the good news that we
are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to
believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it,
to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in
this world the gladdest thing of all. Amen, and come
Lord Jesus.
Frederick Buechner

 

Lenten Reflection for Maundy Thursday 3/28/2013

Love One Another

Love One Another

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 Exodus 12:1-42
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I
have loved you, you also should love one another.
 —-John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Jesus was born in a time that like our times, was filled with strife. He proclaimed
to be the fulfillment of the law and prophesies. His message was one
of hope and love – love of God, love of self and love of everyone else without
exception. He brought the message directly from God of God’s love for us,
his creation. After two thousand years, Jesus message of love still is the
greatest message of all times. Everywhere you look, you can see God’s blessings,
in the beauty of a sunset, the majesty of the oceans, the forested mountains
and even the poke plant along the parking lot fence at St. Paul’s.
Thanks be to God for all our blessings and for sending his son, Jesus, to remind
us that love is the only thing that really matters.
Carol Witzeman
Mother, wife, friend, nature lover, animal lover, bag lady

Lenten Reflection for Wed of Holy Week 3/27/2013

Last Supper

Last Supper

Psalm 70 Isaiah 50:4-9a
Hebrews 12:1-3 John 13:21-32

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
 —- Mother Teresa

Lenten Reflection for Tue of Holy Week 3/26/2013

Christ Ascending Detail

Christ Ascending Detail

Psalm 71:1-14 Isaiah 49:1-7
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 John 12:20-36

You have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence
since my youth. —-Psalm 71: 1-14

I’m not fond of the Psalms. So often they drift into begging,
despair, or general meanness, but this one I can handle.
It doesn’t shrink from asking for God‘s help, for sure we NEED
it! It even hints at despair and meanness. But for me the main point
here is that God is our refuge and fortress.
We will surely have to deal with trouble and difficult times. Jesus certainly
wasn’t spared them, so why do we think we’d be free of them?
God is our hope especially if things looks hopeless.
I recently saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,
whose main character was an enthusiastic young man trying to get a
rundown hotel up and running as things are going wrong left and
right. His mantra was

“Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s
not alright, it’s not the end yet.”

How true of our hope in God. Things may look bleak for you, for
Jesus, for the world, but God knows the real ending…we can have
confidence in Him!
Barb Lambdin
musician, cyclist, camper, helper

Lenten Reflection for Mon of Holy Week 3/25/2013

Sojourner Truth Headstone- Oakhill Cemetery

Sojourner Truth Headstone- Oakhill Cemetery (Photo credit: battlecreekcvb)

 

Sojourner Truth, half-length portrait; hotogra...

Sojourner Truth, half-length portrait; hotographic print on carte de visite mount : albumen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Psalm 36:5-11 Isaiah 42:1– 9
Hebrews 9:11-15 John 12:1-11

 

Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.
—- Sojourner Truth