Beloved of God,
Easter is coming, and it’s not all about bunnies and chocolate and jelly beans – but you knew that. Rather, it is about the hope of new, full, eternal life promised to us in the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The Rector of the church attended by the Johnson-Stojs when they are in Williamsburg (a former colleague of mine from Long Island), The Rev. Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly, recently referred to Holy Week as a gift that we can give ourselves. The journey through the ups and downs of Holy Week serves to make Easter Sunday so much brighter.
Many of our traditions during Holy Week were recorded long ago by a woman named Egeria, who made a pilgrimage from Spain or Gaul to Egypt and the Holy Land from around the years 381-384. She recorded what she observed, and through her witness and writings we have preserved traditions from the very early Church.
Here is a glimpse of our offerings here at Saint Matthias’ in the coming week:
Tenebrae on Tuesday evening reminds us that when our lives seem stormy and full of darkness, and even when all hope seems to be lost, there is a Light that shines – a Light that can never be extinguished.
On Wednesday, we offer our regular Holy Eucharist with the laying on of hands and healing prayers made available.
On Maundy Thursday, we gather to share a simple meal together, and then enter into the three holiest days of the year, known as the Triduum Sacrum. All of the services over the course of those three days are in effect one long service with breaks in between. That evening we don’t just commemorate, but experience the Last Supper. There is foot washing, holy feasting (Eucharist), and then the stripping of the altar that reminds us of Christ’s arrest and stripping. The altar is then washed as a tomb being prepared to receive the body of Our Lord on Good Friday. The sacrament is processed to the altar of repose during the singing of the beautiful Pange lingua, “Now my tongue, the mystery telling…,” and the overnight vigil begins. Could you not keep watch with our Lord for one hour? (A sign up sheet is available outside the office.)
We end the Vigil on Friday morning with a simple Morning Prayer service, and take up the journey with the East Aurora ecumenical Ministerium as we process through the village with a cross, and with readings and prayers. We begin at Immaculate Conception, and make our way to stations at the Presbyterian Church, outside the police station, the library, the middle school, Saint Matthias’, and we end at Baker Memorial Methodist Church.
That evening, beginning at 6:00, we walk our own lovely the Stations of the Cross here at Saint Matthias’, tracing Jesus’ last journey through the streets Jerusalem and imagining what that would have been like for Him and for those who loved Him – ending our journey at the Whitman cross in the front of the church.
Immediately following the Stations, we gather in the chapel to mourn with Jesus’ mother. “Sitting Shiva with Mary” is designed around the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva with the bereaved following a death in the family. It was also a practice in the early church – being Jewish – to sit Shiva with Mary on the evening of Good Friday, and to join her in her grief.
Immediately following our time with Mary, we move back to the church to partake in the ancient prayers of Good Friday, to hear Saint John’s account of the Passion sung by some of the men of our choir, and to consume all remaining sacrament, reminding us in a powerful way of the reality that Jesus is truly and utterly gone.
On Holy Saturday, we gather once more in the evening to kindle a new fire. We light the Paschal (Easter) candle, and move into the church to hear the story of salvation history told through scripture and song. It is during this rich and lovely service that the Resurrection is first proclaimed with loud shouts of Alleluia!
Last, but not least, we gather again on Easter Sunday – and discover for ourselves the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection. Come and join the celebration and fanfare, featuring our amazing choir, organ, and brass! And there will even be an Easter Egg hunt between services – don’t miss out! Our little ones’ joy is contagious!
as the invitation at
Iona Abbey says:
You who have much faith
and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have
not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow
and you who have failed.
It is the Lord who invites you.
I pray that you will give yourself the gift of Holy Week this year – all or even just some little part of it that you feel drawn to. I look forward to sharing this holy and life giving journey with you, and greeting you all on the Day of Resurrection.
Yours in Christ’s all embracing Love,