We’re almost there…the week when Christians the world over embark upon a most sacred spiritual journey with Christ. We venture, along with our Lord, to the ancient and holy city of Jerusalem…the gates are opened wide and Jesus enters in triumph, astride a donkey, with the people of the city cheering his entry. In little time, the atmosphere changes…the sky darkens and the people’s hearts harden. Jesus is reviled, vilified and denounced. The Pharisees and Scribes, the Roman authorities and many of Jesus’ own people turn against him and betray him.
We take this trip with Jesus, right into Jerusalem, though we need not venture too far from our homes. We walk with Christ and we do so as we engage, celebrate and take part in the Liturgies celebrated at St. Nicholas.
We begin with the April 17th, 10am Palm Sunday Liturgy
We celebrate Jesus’ glorious entry into the Holy City of David, as well as commemorate the Passion of the Lord; of that fateful Friday when Jesus surrenders his mortal self, to defeat sin and shed eternal light upon all God’s children. The highs and lows of this particular Liturgy are striking: as we begin with such joy and happiness, palms waving as we welcome Jesus. Soon, we enter into the darkness of human grief and sadness as we follow the steps of Christ. What love is this, that God sacrifices His only son for us?
7pm Maundy Thursday, April 21st
…has us recalling the Lord’s Last Supper with His disciples. At this Liturgy, we will also make good on the commandment to be servant to others. Jesus washed the feet of the 12 Apostles. The congregation is invited and encouraged to come forward and have our hands washed. This physical gesture is symbolic of the need for cleansing away the stains of sin and transgression that separates us from God and also serves as a reminder of the call, the commandment, to serve others, to see to their needs and to offer comfort and guidance. The altar is stripped of all vestments and linen, the tabernacle is cleared…to remind us that Jesus is soon to leave us, for but a short while. We enter the worship space in song though we depart in silence…allowing ourselves to ponder the great events we recalled and are about to experience in the following days.
7pm Good Friday, April 22nd
…though death brings us grief and sorrow, this is truly a day we are to celebrate, for Jesus’ tragic and criminal death is a day that brings us all Good News, for His death is our invitation to New Life. We enter into the worship space as we departed the night before, in silence and with reverence. The altar is venerated and paid homage as the clergy prostrates before the “table of sacrifice.” Again, we will proclaim the Passion Narrative from St. John’s Gospel, recalling Jesus’ sacrifice of self for the salvation of all God’s people. Because Jesus is not with us on this day, for he lays in the tomb in human death, there is no Holy Communion…though we share in the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit, which sustains and strengthens us. The Liturgy concludes with the Lord’s Prayer, a closing prayer and we leave the worship space in silence.
8pm Holy Saturday, April 23rd…the Great Vigil
…this is the greatest and most important of all the Liturgies we celebrate. Christians around the world commemorate the victorious Christ and his triumph over sin and death. The Liturgy is lengthy…and for good reason! The New Fire is lighted…the Baptismal Font is filled with new and fresh water…the Pashcal Candle is marked and blessed for the new church year and season, culminating with the renewal of the promises made at our baptism. We listen with open heart to the Salvation Readings taken from the Old Testament, along with the New Testament scripture passage and the Gospel of St. Matthew. Single voices in song, choir anthems along with the entire congregation singing, will provide beautiful musical accompaniment, ensuring a most wonderful and glorious Liturgy.
“This is the night when you brought our fore-bearers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land. This is the night when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin and are restored to grace and holiness of life. This is the night when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell and rose victorious from the grave.”
What a glorious night indeed…come let us adore Him.
10am Easter Sunday, April 24th
…is hardly a wrap-up of events, rather a continuation of the great celebrations we started a week earlier on Palm Sunday. Certainly, this Sunday Liturgy is a bit more relaxed and less involved in comparison to the Great Easter Vigil celebrated the night before. Nonetheless, Easter Sunday is when, the world over, bells ring out the great news that Jesus Christ is Risen! We will conclude our Easter Sunday Liturgy with our traditional social gathering in Holy Innocents Hall and with a lively Easter Egg Hunt. Weather permitting the hunt will be outdoors on the front lawns. And, if nature doesn’t cooperate, we’ll move things indoors. Children of all ages are invited…that means every one can have some fun!
All we need is the community of St. Nicholas to come and be part of this week-long profession of our faith, the commemoration of Jesus’ sacrifices made for us and the celebration of Our Savior’s glorious and divine triumph over mortal sin and human death. This is an invitation; to one and all–to friends and visitors, to those who are curious and those longing for a deeper relationship with Christ–come and let us all honor our God with prayer, in song and with hearts open to the gifts of God the Almighty, Jesus the Son and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Just as God’s love far exceeds what we could ever require of Him, St. Nicholas has more than enough room for everyone. Let’s fill the seats and make a most holy noise in song and exultation. God bless us, one and all.