Ah…March is behind us, and hopefully the chilly Cincinnati winter, too. This year Holy Week begins on Sunday April 14th, and I am so excited for Holy Week and Easter in 2019. Yes, I realize it sounds peculiar for me to write that I am “excited” about Holy Week, but remember that we cannot get to the resurrection, God’s Yes!, without Holy Week and the suffering Christ went through.
We begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday on the 14th. This year’s Palm Sunday liturgy will be a bit different than previous years. I want us to focus more on the Liturgy of the Palms and less on the Passion Narrative. We always have the Liturgy of the Palms remembering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and then we move quickly into the Passion Reading. The trouble with this familiar approach, though, is that in having the Passion Narrative so close to the Liturgy of the Palms, we actually focus more on Good Friday than on Palm Sunday. Decades ago the Church changed the lectionary readings to include the Passion Reading on Palm Sunday since so many folks do not attend the Good Friday liturgy. In other words, the Church wanted to make certain that Christians didn’t simply go from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday without experiencing the crucial events of Holy Week.
We will still have the Passion Reading in the Palm Sunday service, but this sacred text will not be read until after we have received Eucharist. In fact, we will not have a dismissal on Palm Sunday, therefore signifying the connection of the Holy Week liturgies. Naturally, you are invited and encouraged to attend as many of the Holy Week services as possible.
We will have a Holy Wednesday Eucharist in our Memorial Chapel with the lectionary readings for Holy Wednesday. We experienced a full Memorial Chapel at 10:00 service on Ash Wednesday, and it was a beautiful site to behold. It would be wonderful to have another full Memorial Chapel for Holy Wednesday liturgy on April 17th at 10:00am.
Maundy Thursday is April 18th this year. When I was a boy, my family attended both the Maundy Thursday liturgy and the Good Friday liturgy. However, there were busier years than others, and I can recall a few Holy Weeks when my family and I could only attend one of those two sacred liturgies. I fully recognize how busy many of us keep our lives. I am one who keeps his planner pretty full; believe me, I get it. That said, if you have children living at home, are pressed for time, and can really only manage to squeeze in either a Maundy Thursday liturgy or a Good Friday liturgy with your families, then I would recommend that you attend the Maundy Thursday. I am not downplaying the importance of Good Friday and the crucifixion in the least. Both holy days are full of rich symbolism and meaning, but of the two experiences, I believe that children get more out of A&HT’s Maundy Thursday liturgy. This Thursday evening service will begin at 7:30 in the church proper. Maundy Thursday is when we remember Jesus’ Last Supper, when we remember Christ’s commandment to love others as Christ loves us, and to share in the washing of feet as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Children will find the service full of emotion and love and example as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper for the last time until the Great Vigil of Easter, and as we share in washing one another’s feet (including of you and your children). Maundy Thursday is charged through and through with symbolism that should spark many a meaningful conversation, whether you are four, fourteen, or forty. In addition, we will have a youth lock in the Maundy Thursday service, and we ask parishioners to stay up for the vigil (sign up in the Narthex and get a unique entry code).
Good Friday is obviously a powerful Holy Week day as remember our Lord’s Passion. A&HT will have a noon Stations of the Cross, and the church will be open from noon to 3:00 for those wanting to be quiet and pray with our Lord. 7:30pm will have feature our Good Friday Solemn Liturgy with Communion from the Reserved Sacrament.
New this year will be a shared Great Vigil of Easter with Christ Church in Glendale, St. Simon’s, A&HT, and the Community of the Transfiguration. This year we will keep the Great Vigil of Easter at Christ Church in Glendale at 8:01 pm. I will be present for this meaningful liturgy as we remember the story of salvation, and I hope many of you are able to be present with me as we watch and wait together with our other Episcopal sisters and brothers. And finally, Easter Sunday will have our 8:00 and 10:00 Resurrection liturgies with Holy Eucharist, as many Easter lilies as the church will hold, beautiful music at the 10:00 service, powerful preaching, and a grand Easter Egg Hunt put on by our Middle School Sunday School class and their teachers.
Avail yourselves to experiencing God anew through our Holy Week and Easter liturgies. Not one time have I ever walked away from experiencing Holy Week services and thought to myself, “Well, that was a waste of my time.” I am always filled with gratitude for getting to experience the depth of God’s love through these moving liturgies with you. Just as the Church invited you to a Holy Lent on Ash Wednesday, so too do we invite you to experience God’s abundance through a Holy Week and Easter! All belong because God loves every single one of us!
In God’s Grace,
Eric L. Miller+