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Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum

March 14, 2008

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

One of the great strengths of Christianity is that it is manifested in so many rich and diverse ways.  While we agree on the centrality of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the key to what it means to be a Christian, we have, throughout time and around the world, found nearly limitless ways to express that shared foundational belief.

Looking from the outside in, a non-Christian might pose the question, “Which group is right?  Which group of Christians believes correctly?”  Looking at that question from the inside, I firmly believe that this is not a question of who is right and who is wrong.  Rather, it is a question of how each different group of Christians chooses to celebrate the great gift of the Risen Christ. You can read about different ways to identify Christianity in custom college essays because in this article I would like to express my views on it, rather than describe each of them

In my experience, in religions of all kinds, it is when one group claims that they hold the one, true interpretation of their religion that violence in the name of God begins.  You can only destroy others if you de-humanize and demonize them first.  And the fastest way to demonize another is to claim that what they believe is wrong and what you believe is right.

Christianity is not a binary system.  It is a flowing continuum of beliefs and interpretations that are centered around the faith in the incarnation and resurrection.  We should take a lesson from our brothers and sisters of the Quaker denomination who are taught from an early age that when expressing differing points of view, they are called to listen to where they agree rather than where they disagree.

I know too many good, faithful and holy Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists and Anglicans to believe that any one of those denominations has a corner on the truth.  I know too many good, faithful and holy people affiliated with free standing churches and denominations of which you may have never heard to believe that any one of those groups is guaranteed salvation while all others are simply out of luck.

We should, as Christians, especially as we approach the Feast of the Resurrection, Easter, celebrate our unity in our belief in Christ and our diversity in how we express it.  As we await the inexplicable miracle of Christ’s victory over death, now is certainly not the time to claim a corner on the market.

In the Episcopal/Anglican tradition (and in many others) Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, is not a stand alone event.  It comes at the end of Holy Week, a week of events that lead to the arrest, crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth.  Easter stands as both conclusion and beginning.  The Resurrection completes the narrative of the Word made flesh, and it brings forth a new creation – a creation in which death no longer has power over us.

This understanding of Easter is spelled out clearly in our liturgy of the Sacred Triduum: the services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter.  Neither the Maundy Thursday nor Good Friday services end with the dismissal.  Once the Maundy Thursday service begins, we do not hear our customary service ending dismissal “Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord” until the end of the Great Vigil of Easter.  The Sacred Triduum is not three services, but one, a seamless liturgical action that enfolds us within the mystery of the death and resurrection of our Lord.

Some people mistakenly understand the Sacred Triduum as a reenactment of the final days of Jesus’ life.  They see the institution of the Last Supper and the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday, the recitation of the Gospel account of the death of Jesus on Good Friday and the celebration of the resurrection in the Great Vigil of Easter as a congregational passion play.  While passion plays and other reenactments of the passion have a long history in Christianity, the liturgy should never be understood as such.

Rather, the Sacred Triduum – indeed every Eucharist of our lives -- affords us the opportunity to participate in the mystery of the eternal nature of God’s time.  The liturgy unfolds for us in such a way as to enfold us in the collapse of time, bringing the past, present and future together in one moment.  When entered into over a three day period, this mystery extends beyond the hour we spend in church each week and saturates seventy-two hours of our life in ways that cannot be imagined if you have not taken part in it.

In some traditions, Easter is a service that stands alone, neither as part of Holy Week services nor even as the conclusion to Lent.  For us, Easter is not simply a sunrise service one day a year, but the culmination of the liturgical pathway that leads us from incarnation to resurrection.  The rhythm of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and the season after Pentecost allows us to enter, I believe,  fully into the mystery of Christ and the church in a manner that is different (not better) than other traditions.  And Holy Week is a seven day period that intensifies that rhythm as it leads us to the mystery of the resurrection.

The Holy Week services of the Stations of the Cross on Tuesday evening and Tenebrae on Wednesday evening are opportunities for contemplative reflection of what this most sacred time of the year means for us.  But it is in the Sacred Triduum that the rhythm of our liturgical lives reaches its climax.

I commend to all of you the Sacred Triduum (the continuous liturgical thread of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter).  It is an ancient and powerful liturgy that allows us to truly experience the thrill, the fear and the joy of the empty tomb.

I hope, if you are not presently affiliated with a church, you will consider entering into this great celebration with your brothers and sisters in Christ at The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.

Yours in Christ,

 Fr. Geoff


Mar. 16 Sun.              Palm Sunday – 10:30a.m. (1 service)

Mar. 17, Mon.            Holy Eucharist – 12 noon

Mar. 18, Tues.           Way of the Cross – 7:30pm @ Redeemer Episcopal Academy

Mar. 19 Weds.           Holy Eucharist – 12 noon

Mar. 19, Weds.          Tenebrae Service – 7:30pm

Mar. 20, Thurs.        Maundy Thursday Service – 7:30pm

Mar. 21, Fri.             Good Friday Service – 12 noon

Mar. 22 Sat.              Holy Saturday Service – 12 noon

Mar. 22, Sat.             The Great Easter Vigil – 8:30pm

Mar. 23, Sun.            Easter Day – 10:30a.m (1 service)



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