This year, lent and the run-up to Easter has been challenged by the Coronavirus in ways we would not have expected. My husband Bob is a priest in the Church of England, and after trying to stay in church to deliver services to our congregation, the government called for all churches to be closed a few weeks ago.
This is really strange – not even Bob can go to church to pray! I am not sure how one priest in an empty church is at risk but there you go!
Instead, we have had to find new ways of ministry and so, like many others, Bob has set up live streaming on his Facebook profile. He has delivered 3 Sunday services by Livestream and has also prepared Holy Week meditations for this Holy week, at 3 pm each day. If you can join him please click here https://www.facebook.com/revrstephen and friend him!
So what is Holy Week? I have done my best to explain below, but if you need any further help please get in touch.
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” – Matthew 21:9
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and was mobbed by the crowd with palm branches and shouts of hosanna. Jesus was being hailed as King – not a mighty warrior, but a king of peace. The road Jesus took on Palm Sunday was on a humble donkey beginning His journey to the cross.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you.” – John 13:34
On Maundy Thursday, we remember the night on which Jesus was betrayed. “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means commandment. Maundy Thursday services give us the opportunity to remember the entirety of Jesus’ Last Supper. We remember the words of institution: this is my body and blood, given for you for the redemption of sins. We recall Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, predicting His betrayal, and giving us the commandment to love as He does—a love that was demonstrated with His willing death on the cross. Because Jesus and His disciples were partaking in the Jewish Passover Seder, many churches celebrate this day with a Seder meal or with Communion.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34
Good Friday reflects on Jesus’ dramatic path toward His crucifixion. The Good Friday service asks us to imagine what it would have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples or one of his accusers on the day of His death. It gives us an opportunity to feel the weight of Jesus’ suffering and bear the burden of the cross. It prompts us to recall when we, like Peter, have denied our Lord. It gives us space to mourn the death of our Saviour.
“Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience.” – Luke 23:56
Holy Saturday often gets skipped over. We get caught up preparing for our Easter celebrations the next day and forget that Saturday is a significant part of the story too. Holy Saturday is the long, painful day when Jesus lay dead in a grave. We sometimes think of it as the day of waiting, but for His disciples, it was a time of mourning, confusion, and loss. They didn’t know He would rise from the dead. No, they carried His heavy body to a tomb and sealed it. While we know the end of the story, feeling the weight of Jesus’ death before we celebrate His Resurrection is valuable for understanding the depth of what Christ did for us two thousand years ago. That weight is what Holy Saturday is all about.
Mary Magdalene announced to the Disciples “I have seen the Lord!” John 20:18
There is good news: this story did not end with death. The stone was rolled away and the grave was found empty. Hallelujah! He is Risen! It is cause for jubilant celebration, and we invite you to join in. We also invite you to participate in one or more Holy Week services to better engage with God’s story of love, sacrifice, power, and victory. I believe that in experiencing the whole Passion of Christ through Holy Week services, your appreciation for Easter and the gift of salvation that God gives to us will grow and help life to be more secure, meaningful and positive.