Holy Week — March 24-31, 2024

What is your cross?https://i0.wp.com/static.wixstatic.com/media/d4dc37_e048ce61ab9344a8bf780759e145e26a~mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_599,h_599,al_c,lg_1,q_80/d4dc37_e048ce61ab9344a8bf780759e145e26a~mv2.jpg?w=604&ssl=1 If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and ...

Bible connection

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? — Matthew 16:13-26

All about Holy Week

Holy Week is the week immediately before Easter. It begins with Palm Sunday and leads up to Easter Sunday, the highlight of the Christian calendar.

The earliest allusion to the custom of marking this whole week with special observances is  found in the Apostolic Constitutions from Syria, dating from the second half of the 3rd century.

The Constitutions are a form of  of early church literature (1st to 5th century) called “orders.” Their purpose was to promote “apostolic” prescriptions on matters of moral conduct, liturgy and Church organization. They are written in the name of the authority they evoke (techincal name: pseudepigrapha). Many orders, like the Constitutions purport to have been handed down by the Twelve Apostles.  Apart from the Apostolic Constitutions, which was made known and printed before 1563, all the other early texts of orders were discovered and published in the 19th or early 20th century.

  • In the few lines from the Constitutions about Holy Week, abstinence from meat is commanded for the week. On Friday and Saturday there is to be a full fast.
  • Dionysius Alexandrinus in his letter of 260 (which the Eastern Church preserves as inspired) refers to the 91 fasting days in the calendar, implying that the observance of them had already become an established usage in his time.
  • By the time of of the Christian Emperor Theodosius (reigned 379 to 395), who called the Council of Nicaea, the Codex Theodosianus orders all actions of law to cease for the seven days before and after Easter.
  • One of the “best sellers” of the 300’s, The Pilgrimage of Etheria/Egeria (about a woman who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land), details the whole observance of Holy Week at that time. [It is worth noting that the name in the Wiki link after the slash above also titles the Egeria Project, which has usurped the name for a  metadata exchange computer program].

The first days of the “great week” to emerge into general observance were Good Friday, and then the Great Sabbath/Holy Saturday. Following the usual custom of the Church, the eve of Easter took on its own significance and a vigil became traditional. In many places the vigil focused on the hope the Lord’s return would occur on an Easter Day.

We have found common cause with the Moravian Church whose Holy Week observances are extensive and immersive. Congregations follow the life of Christ through His final week in daily gatherings dedicated to readings from a harmony of the Gospel stories, responding to the readings with hymns, prayers and litanies. They begin on the eve of Palm Sunday and culminate at the Easter sunrise service. The practice began with the Moravians in 1732. [Here’s an  example from Home Moravian Church in Winston-Salem]


Wikipedia has a good description of Holy Week [link]

A tour operator in Jerusalem offers a nice video for people who could not get to the Holy Land for Holy Week during the pandemic:

Stations of the Cross for Good Friday. This walk of following Jesus to the cross (and our own death and resurrection) comes in many forms. Here is one from the Catholic bishops [link]. Here is one our former church created for doing at home during a pandemic [link]. Here is an art-filled video of the Stations by the Holy Land Franciscans [link]

What do we do with this?

You might be connected to a church that observes Holy Week. Get involved. Go to all the meetings. If you are not connected, research who observes these days in your area and join them; it is all one Church, one history, one story even if people cordone off territory for themselves. Many churches have Maundy Thursday and Good Friday observances. The Catholics may include a Stations of the Cross liturgy on Friday. The Orthodox churches are known for their Easter vigils.

Don’t be afriad to create your own journey through the week with Jesus. The way he took his own journey in spite of the pressure to stay safe is an example for all of us. Read the portions of the Bible above and imagine how you can get involved and involve your family and friends. Here are some ideas:

  • Monday: Overturn some tables. This might be a good day to protest: Pray in front of an oppressive institution or statue. Have a letter-writing exercise after dinner.
  • Tuesday: Organize a meeting to read through all the great teaching recorded as part of the Lord’s last week. Maybe act out parts of it. Sing songs connected to it. Point it at people or organizations that need to hear it. Address your difficulty with following it.
  • Wednesday: Emulate the woman who anointed Jesus. Fill your house with fragrance for an hour. Encourage each other to face the daily deaths we all face as we follow.
  • Thursday: Re-enact the Last Supper in some way. There is lots of advice on the internet for how to do this: [kids] [small group of adults]. For you, simple might be fine: you could read the scripture and have your own version of the communion ceremony.
  • Friday: You could journey through the stations of the cross [mentioned above]. You could take off work from noon to three and sit with Jesus in silence. You could watch a movie that includes the crucifixion [Zeferelli’s 1977 Europe-wide cast does well in Jesus of Nazareth. Start at 3:30 for all of holy week, at 5:00 for trials and crucifixion].
  • Saturday: A symbolic day of silence one day a year might be perfect. You could bury a statue of Jesus with the kids and let them dig him up on Easter. Explore the legends that grew up around Joseph of Arimathea [Glastonbury] [Saintes Maries de la Mer].

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