Holy Week I
Christianity was a persecuted religion in the world of the Roman Empire until the emperor Constantine promulgated the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. Before this edict the Church generally gathered only on Sundays for worship. After this edict, more was possible. The original Sunday pattern for Christian worship continues to shape our lives. Yet Sunday is much more than a morning, especially the greatest Sunday of all, Easter Day.
Many people know about the first revolt of the Jewish people against Roman rule in 70 A.D. It resulted in terrible destruction and hardship for Jerusalem and Judea. I did not know until I got to seminary that there was a second revolt, from A.D. 132 to A.D. 135. This revolt resulted in the total destruction of Jerusalem. The Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt it as a new city, Aelia Capitolina. Jews were not permitted to enter Aelia Capitolina until Constantine’s Edict of Milan. Christians began to return in the second century. (It is interesting to wonder if the bishopric of Rome would be as central to Christian history if Jerusalem had continued to be the center of Christianity during the first centuries of the Christian era.) By the middle of the fourth century, what we know as Holy Week has been born in Jerusalem. It is where Christians learned to make liturgical use not just of a building but of an entire city.
Again, the original pattern of worship for Christians is a Sunday pattern. Once a Sunday had been designated as the Sunday of the Resurrection, the Sunday before became the Sunday of the Passion. This pattern has always been the fundamental scheme for Christians. But the Jerusalem community added something new. On the evening of the Sunday of the Passion, what we would call a palm rite was celebrated. The Christian community went out of the city gates and had a procession, reentering Jerusalem as Jesus had done on the Sunday before his death. On Thursday evening, there was a commemoration of the Last Supper. On Friday, the Church in Jerusalem gathered at Calvary. These rites – celebrated in the places believed to be the actual sites of the events – would eventually spread throughout the Western Christian world.
Most Christians in our country, Protestant and Catholic, think of Easter as a Sunday morning event. This is not the great Christian tradition. It will surprise many to know that the tradition actually considers the Sunday morning Masses optional. If at all possible, all members of the Christian community gather to celebrate the principal service of the year, the Great Vigil of Easter, a service that began after sunset (the beginning of the day according to Jewish reckoning) and, ideally, ended at dawn. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have never been days of obligation – even for Roman Catholics. The principal service of the Church year is the Easter Vigil. This one great rite celebrates Jesus’ death and resurrection. The central proclamation of the Christian religion is that Jesus died and is risen. The proclamation is incomplete without both elements, death and resurrection. The Easter Vigil is the central rite of the entire year.
Easter has never stood alone, even when Christians only worshipped on Sundays. The services of Thursday night and Friday before Easter Eve have for over a millennium been the essential preparation for the Easter Vigil. We call these three days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) together the “Easter Triduum” (pronounced: tri – DJOO – um). Triduum is Latin for “three days.” Remember, Christians reckon time on our most sacred days as Jews do, from sunset. Day One begins on Thursday at sunset. Day Two begins on Friday at sunset. Day Three begins on Saturday at sunset.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of clearing your calendar and getting yourself to church for the celebration of the Easter Triduum. And I really cannot explain it all beforehand. It is something that is best talked about by persons of faith after we have celebrated the week together. Some will want to talk about details. Some will be moved so profoundly that they cannot speak. The Lord still is present among us. Jesus still rises and dies in the persons he is calling to faith. Jesus is renewing and recalling us to the life we have been given. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Jane, Gilbert, William, Joseph, Jean, Lynn, Nancy, Margaret, Kristina, Mabel, Robert, Gloria, Jason, Harold, Billie, Matthew, Virginia, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Jonathan, Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David and Colin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 29: 1964 Robert Edward Cerra, 1997 Brice Linville; March 30: 1968 Mabel Helen Arends.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 43:16-21; 5:9-12 Psalm 126, Philippians 3:8-14, Luke 20:9-19 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, March 27 by Father Beddingfield and on Saturday, April 3 by Father Gerth . . . On Sunday, March 28, the Rector will be celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM Masses. Mr. John Hamilton, one of our seminarians, will preach at the 9:00 AM Mass. The Reverend James Ross Smith will preach at Solemn Evensong at 5:00 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to our mailing team, Eileen Whittle, Dennis Smith and George Handy . . . Father Beddingfield’s class on the spiritual disciplines and the Desert Tradition will conclude this Monday night, March 29. Even if you have been unable to attend a previous class, all are welcome . . . Gifts for flowers for the church for Easter are now being received. Send your gift to the parish office and mark it “Easter Flowers.” Thank you very much! . . . The Rector will leave for a continuing education conference, Leadership in Ministry, Sunday afternoon, March 28. He returns to the rectory Wednesday night, March 31 . . . Altar servers and members of the clergy are reminded that the rehearsal for Palm Sunday is on Saturday, April 3, at 1:00 PM. Attendance last Sunday 242.
VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM AT SAINT MARY’S . . . After much prayer and planning, a small committee of dedicated persons is launching a new parish program. The Visual Arts Program seeks to further the mission of Saint Mary’s through exhibitions, lectures and other activities that will highlight some of our artistic treasures and move people to make new connections between faith and the visual arts. The first exhibition, Fabric of Faith, will open in Saint Joseph’s Hall after the Easter Vigil.
THE WATCH BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT . . . At the end of the liturgy on Maundy Thursday, April 8, the Sacrament consecrated for the Communion of the Church on Good Friday is reposed in the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy. The transfer to this altar and the decorations of this chapel recall Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked his disciples to watch with him for one hour. We remember the watching of the disciples and we participate in that memory by keeping watch on this special night. Please consider making this a part of your observance of Holy Week. There is a sign-up sheet in Saint Joseph’s Hall for the Watch. Although this tradition varies from parish to parish, presently the Watch is kept at Saint Mary’s from the end of the Maundy Thursday liturgy until the beginning of the liturgy on Good Friday. A security guard will be on duty through the night. The easternmost doors of the church on 46th Street will be unlocked through the night. To let us know the time period you would like to cover, you may also call the parish office or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Pater noster’ by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). Not published during his lifetime (not until the 19th century!) this Mass is a “paraphrase” setting based on the plainsong Our Father that we sing at every Solemn Mass. A paraphrase Mass setting is one that uses a plainsong melody as its cantus firmus (“fixed melody” or theme). The Mass we heard on Thursday, Missa ‘Ave maris stella’ by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), is also a paraphrase Mass. The motet at Communion is
O Domine Iesu Christe by Victoria.
A FINAL CALL FOR JOINING SAINT MARY’S AT THE EASTER VIGIL . . . For one to become a “member” of Saint Mary’s, we simply need to record the fact of your Christian baptism. But if you would like to make your membership special in a more formal way, the Easter Vigil on April 10 is a wonderful way to do that. Bishop Epting will be with us to confirm and receive those from other traditions and to help others reaffirm their faith in Christ. If you are interested in this and have not already done so, please speak with Father Gerth or Father Beddingfield.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Monday Weekday of Lent
Tuesday Weekday of Lent
Wednesday Weekday of Lent
Thursday Weekday of Lent
Friday Weekday of Lent Lenten Friday Abstinence
Saturday Weekday of Lent
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.