10 April 2009

Holy Week


Holy Week is the last week of Lent, the week immediately preceding Easter or Resurrection Sunday. It is observed in many Christian churches as a time to commemorate and enact the suffering (Passion) and death of Jesus through various observances and services of worship. While some church traditions focus specifically on the events of the last week of Jesus’ life, many of the liturgies symbolize larger themes that marked Jesus’ entire ministry. Observances during this week range from daily liturgical services in churches to informal meetings in homes to participate in a Christian version of the Passover Seder.

In Catholic tradition, the conclusion to the week is called the Easter Triduum (a triduum is a space of three days usually accompanying a church festival or holy days that are devoted to special prayer and observance). Some liturgical traditions, such as Lutherans, simply refer to "The Three Days." The Easter Triduum begins Thursday evening of Holy Week with Eucharist and concludes with evening prayers Easter Sunday.

Increasingly, evangelical churches that have tended to look with suspicion on traditional "High-Church" observances of Holy Week are now realizing the value of Holy Week services, especially on Good Friday. This has a solid theological basis both in Scripture and in the traditions of the Faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was executed by the Nazis, wrote of the Cost of Discipleship and warned of "cheap grace" that did not take seriously either the gravity of sin or the radical call to servanthood: "When Jesus bids a man come, he bids him come and die."

It is this dimension that is well served by Holy Week observances, as they call us to move behind the joyful celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter, and focus on the suffering, humiliation, and death that is part of Holy Week. It is important to place the hope of the Resurrection, the promise of newness and life, against the background of death and endings. It is only in walking through the shadows and darkness of Holy Week and Good Friday, only in realizing the horror and magnitude of sin and its consequences in the world incarnated in the dying Jesus on the cross, only in contemplating the ending and despair that the disciples felt on Holy Saturday, that we can truly understand the light and hope of Sunday morning!

In observing this truth, that new beginnings come from endings, many people are able to draw a parable of their own lives and faith journey from the observances of Holy Week. In providing people with the opportunity to experience this truth in liturgy and symbol, the services become a powerful proclamation of the transformative power of the Gospel, and God at work in the lives of people.

The entire week between Palm Sunday and Holy Saturday is included in Holy Week, and some church traditions have daily services during the week. However, usually only Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are times of special observance in most churches.
(by Dennis Bratcher)

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1 comments:

sexyjessie April 10, 2009 at 1:31 PM  

Yes, it's true that this Good Friday we remembered Jesus death and 3 days He's risen again! Halleluljah.

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