What is Holy Week?
Holy Week is the last week of Lent leading up to Easter. We know that it has been observed in the Christian Church since at least the latter half of the third century. This year it begins on Sunday, March 24, and ends on Sunday March 31st. It includes the following celebrations:
Palm Sunday, otherwise known as the Passion of the Lord, the services on this day commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entrance on a donkey, into Jerusalem. They include a blessing of the palms and a procession around the Emmanuel property. Children are given red flags to wave as we process, singing Hosanna, accompanied by guitar. This is followed by the reading of the Passion Gospel with each of the parts read by different members of the congregation, and Eucharist. Services are at 8:15 am and 10:00 am.
Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus and his twelve disciples, the first Eucharist instituted by Jesus, and the commandment to love one another that Jesus gave after washing the feet of his disciples. During the service, members of the congregation are given an opportunity to wash one another’s feet while the musicians play inspiring music. Eucharist follows. The service is at 7:30 pm.
Good Friday commemorates Jesus’ time on the cross and his death. There is no celebration of Eucharist anywhere in the Church on Good Friday or until after sundown on Holy Saturday. Communion, however, can be received from the reserved sacrament, which is bread and wine that has been consecrated (blessed) by the priest before Good Friday begins. At Emmanuel there are services from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm and again at 7:30 pm. This year the services include an opportunity to participate in an interactive Stations of the Cross as well as a chance to listen to the literary reflections of the biblical characters present at the crucifixion. Communion follows from the reserved sacrament.
Holy Saturday is the day before Easter until sunset. There are lessons and prayers included in the Book of Common Prayer to provide for a Liturgy of the Word during the daytime.
The Great Vigil of Easter is held after dark on Holy Saturday. The service includes the lighting of the new fire and the Paschal (Easter) candle, baptisms, an opportunity for the community to renew their baptismal vows, and the celebration of the first Eucharist of Easter. Each participant is given a lighted candle to hold during the service. This results in a beautiful ambience for this time of worship. The service is held at 7:30 pm.
Easter Sunday, although technically not a part of Holy Week, is the most important celebration of the church year. It commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. At Emmanuel it includes a choral Eucharist, the ringing of bells at the Gloria, and the flowering of the Easter cross. Everyone is encouraged to bring a bell to ring, and a flower to participate in the decorating of the cross, which occurs midway through the service. Services are at 8:15 am and 10:00 am. There is an Easter egg hunt outdoors for the children following the 10:00 am service.