Holy Week

 

The week leading up to Easter is known as Holy Week.  The last three days of this week; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are referred to as "The Great Three Days."  As Christians, we look to these three days as the source of our spirituality.  It is our Passover, in a sense.  As Passover marks the freedom of ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the Great Three Days marks for Christians our freedom from slavery to the bondage of sin and death because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Christian Year, and our spirituality, flows from this event and cycles around back to this week and invites us each time to die with Christ and to be raised to new life in Him.

 

Here is a focus and a prayer for each of The Great Three Days:

 

Thursday before Easter - Maundy Thursday

This day is known as "Maundy Thursday."  The word "Maundy" traces back to the Latin word, "Mandatum" which means, mandate or commandment.  This comes from the the words of Jesus to His disciples, "And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 GNT)  He spoke these words on the night before He was crucified while commemorating Passover in the upper room in Jerusalem.  It was at this time that Jesus washed the disciples feet (John 13:3-15).  During the Passover meal, Jesus gave the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the the third cup of wine (the cup of redemption) a whole new meaning.  "Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.' In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, 'This cup is God's new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you.'" (Luke 22:19-20 GNT)

 

Thursday of Holy Week invites us into the love that Jesus demonstrated through voluntarily surrendering Himself to suffering and death.  Jesus felt the full weight of evil and darkness closing in on Him as he struggled in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He prayed, "Father, not my will but yours."  The will of God is love.  For love to triumph over evil, their is a huge sacrifice involved.  We are called, as followers of Christ, to lay down our lives for the sake of others.

 

Whether or not you are able to attend a Maundy Thursday service, there are some ways you can enter the spirit of the day.

 

1.  Prayerfully meditate on these passages: Luke 22:7-46, and John 13.

2.  Find a place to serve humbly and simply do so without any fanfare.  Get out of your comfort zone to serve those who are unfamiliar, or perhaps even those you dislike.  Remember Jesus' new commandment as you do so.

3.  Commit to stay up and pray through the night.  In so doing the story of Gethsemane and the cry of your body for sleep will be very real.  You will relate to the disciples of Jesus who were unable to stay awake and pray with Jesus so that they would not fall into temptation.

 

A Prayer for Holy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

 

Good Friday

The Friday before Easter is known as Good Friday.  Robert Webber describes the day as follows, "It is a matter of interest that the day of the Lord's death is call Good Friday.  In terms of Jesus' won pain and suffering, it was not a good day.  But in view of the death of Jesus as a day when the powers of evil were put to flight and dethroned, it was indeed a good day.  Our celebration of that day in worship captures the tension of both the sorrow we bring to the day through our identification with Jesus and the joy we experience knowing that his death was the death of death, the ruination of the powers of evil." (Ancient Future Time p.130)

 

Here are some things you may do to enter the spirit of Good Friday:

 

1.  Pray the Stations of the Cross

2.  Prayerfully meditate on Luke 23:1-49

3.  Fast.  Fasting and abstaining from various pleasurable activities can be a powerful way in which to "die with Christ" in preparation for the joy of Easter.

 

Prayer for Good Friday

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

 

Holy Saturday

Saturday is the 7th Day.  It is the Jewish Sabbath; a day of rest.  It was also the day in which Jesus rested in the tomb.  This is a day to be at peace knowing that Christ has conquered the fear and anxiety that comes from evil in this world. 

 

The earliest celebrations of Easter took place beginning at sundown on Saturday night.  Early believers gathered outdoors around a fire.  They sang, prayed, and recited scripture relating them to the story of Christ's victory over the grave.  This was a vigil that lasted all night long.  At sunrise on Sunday morning, new believers were baptized into the faith.  This tradition developed into the service which is now known as "The Great Vigil of Easter."  It is a service that is gaining popularity again and is usually held on Saturday evening after dark.  This service is considered the first service of Easter.

 

Ways that you may enter into the spirit of Holy Saturday.

 

1.  Take the day off and be at peace!  Engage in activities that bring you peace and renewal.  Be thankful for the peace that is found in Christ alone.

 

2.  Remember your baptism and be thankful.

 

Prayer for Holy Saturday

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.