Holy Week: Introduction

The rites of Holy Week are ancient and by nature different from the liturgical celebrations of the rest of the Church Year.  They are meant to be different in order to focus the attention of the people on the mysteries being celebrated in this sacred time.

Regrettably, for some, Holy Week consists solely of Palm Sunday and Easter Day.  The rite of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter are not observed or attended.  The world COVID-19 declared emergency, has perhaps made it easier for many to observe Holy Week Rites this year.  Your Priest will attempt to bring all this to you in an online format!

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

The dual nature of the Liturgy for this Sunday is evident from the title.  It begins with the pomp and glory of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna” to our King.  These hosannas soon change to “Crucify him, crucify him,” as the Passion is narrated and dramatically proclaimed.

The Liturgy of the Palms must be in complete contrast to the Liturgy of the Passion and the celebration of the Eucharist on this day.  We are perhaps aided in this task by the fact that we are not able to assemble together for Palm Sunday.  Therefore, the blessing of the palms, distribution of the palms, and the procession of the palms was conducted quite separately from the Liturgy of the Passion and the celebration of the Eucharist this year.

The Rector encourages everyone to begin the Liturgy of the Palms singing triumphantly as King Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, to reign forever!  We shall see soon enough the throne upon which He shall begin His reign, as we cry for his crucifixion in the Gospel of the Eucharist.  Palm Sunday begins in triumph and ends in silence.  At the end of the Eucharist a stark and vivid contrast should be noted from the beginning of the service.

We are all a part of this great drama, for it is the mystery of God’s redemption of the world through his only-begotten-Son.  The strength of Palm Sunday lies in its “schizophrenic” nature.  The truth of this day is that we are all responsible, thought our sins, for the Passion and Death of our Lord.  The glory of this day is that we know by faith the truth of the Resurrection and the promise of everlasting life “with him who suffered and died for us, and rose again.”

Christ became obedient tot the point of death–even death on a cross.  Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 2:8-9)

(Much thanks to Dennis G. Michno, A Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church, 3 ed., Morehouse Publishing: Harrisburg, 1998, 172-173.)