By the editor
Holy Wednesday 2006
Churches around the Anglican World will be filled with people this week as the days of Holy Week and Easter are observed. Some call Holy Week "the week that changed the world". Rich pageantry, stark simplicity and solemn rites mark the journey of the faithful with Christ through his passion, death and resurrection.
Special services often include sacred music cantatas on the Seven Last Words of Christ, the Crucifixion and, in some places, music of the great composers who have created such a rich marriage of ancient biblical and liturgical texts with their own compositions, is sung by choirs.
Anglicans and Episcopalians are known to treat the services of this week with great care, with acolytes, servers, altar guilds, clergy, musicians, flower arrangers, stewards, ushers, readers and all, giving of their time and talent to make these memorable days for the Christian community. Many find the unique services a time to invite people to attend church with them, as these can be effective ways of sharing the faith in a poignant way.
The Great Litany, Processions of Witness, Vigils, Tenebrae (A service of light and Lamentations of Jeremiah), "Passover Meals", the Three Hours of Preaching on Good Friday, and Stations of the Cross are just some of the rites used. Drama and art are incorporated in services, with many churches having special services for children. Some avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this holy time. Home Communions and Unction of the sick form the ministry of many clergy and ministers at this time.
Most dioceses find their bishop gathering the clergy for the ancient rite of the Blessing of the Chrism (Holy Oils) and the renewal of ordination vows in their respective cathedrals.
During this week, in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, we particularly look to the Holy Land and remember most especially the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.
On Easter Day, as the alleluia is restored, some churches celebrate the day by the flowering of the cross and activities for the very young. The Way to Emmaus is often observed at Evensong. Easter Week then begins with Eastertide running through the Great Fifty Days to Pentecost, including the feast of the Ascension.
However, most Prayer Books and liturgy books now provide for the ancient rites of what s called the Sacred Three Days or the Triduum as the main liturgical offerings of the week. Our own Canterbury Cathedral is just one place that observes these days with great solemnity and beauty with the Archbishop, Bishops and the Dean and Chapter.
Editor's note: Photos from your services and events are most welcome.
The following article gives an insight into the sacred rites from a parish in Canada. Even in these ceremonies customs may vary. This article was found on the internet by a simple search. I trust you will find it helpful. Have a blessed Easter.
The Sacred Triduum
Father Keith Whittingham
from St. Barnabas Anglican Church in St. Catharines, Ont. Canada
The last three days of Holy Week are called the Sacred Triduum, the three holy days. We can look at this period from three perspectives:
These days bring to a climax and conclusion our preparation for Easter. The season of Lent has pointed us in this direction. Now we enter the Holy of Holies so to speak - where Christ our great high priest offers himself on the cross for sinful humanity.
These three days are already a part of Easter; for there is an inseparable union between the death of Christ and his resurrection. The two together constitute the Paschal Mystery. This is the Christian Passover, when our Lord passed over from death to life, and through his victory he overcame death and the grave. Therefore, we pass from Holy Week to Easter Week with no noticeable break. Elements of Easter can be found in each of the parts of the Sacred Triduum. The image of the cross is not forgotten in the Easter celebration.
These three days may, nevertheless, be regarded as a unit in themselves, a true triduum or trilogy, a three-part drama showing forth Christ's redemptive work. This is in keeping with the tradition of the Apostolic Church, where the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus were always remembered together. The Sacred Triduum is really one Liturgy that takes place over a period of three days, like a three act play, which carefully describes through words and signs the saving action of God in Jesus Christ.
Holy Thursday is rich in significance. It is the day when Jesus gave the gift of the Eucharist to the Church. "Do this in memory of me". His commission to the disciples can be seen as the institution of the Sacred Priesthood. He also gave his friends the commandment to love one another and in the sign of foot washing we can find the origins of the Diaconal ministry. On this night the unity of the Last Supper is in stark contrast with the agony in the garden and the arrest and betrayal of Jesus that followed. The Liturgy, then, is filled with conflicting images. There is the joy of the Eucharist, celebrated with all its splendour. There is the gift of caring for each other in the humble sign of foot-washing. There is also sadness expressed in the stripping of the altar as we prepare the church for Good Friday.
Christ has been taken away from us. We do not despair, however. In peace we pray before the Sacrament on the altar of repose. Unlike the disciples who could not stay awake for one hour, we watch with Christ.
The Good Friday Liturgy is marked by traditions that go back to the Ancient Church. The Passion of St. John is recited with great solemnity. The Solemn Prayers are chanted according to the ancient formula of biddings followed by Collects. A Cross is brought into view of the people so that they may come forward to offer their devotions. And lastly, Communion is given, (not celebrated in the usual way) from the consecrated bread that was saved from the previous night). This is not a day of sadness, for we leave the church uplifted by the powerful sign of the cross and our unity in Christ who was victorious over death.
Holy Saturday/Easter Eve
"Queen of Festivals" is one name given to the Easter Vigil and so it should be. The lighting of the fire and the Easter Candle both proclaim God's saving activity in the world. The Prophesies that are read point the way to the coming of Christ the Saviour. The blessing of the font, the renewal of baptismal promises (and if possible, the actual celebration of Baptism and Confirmations) point to our personal involvement with Christ who brings new life to his Church and his people.
The Liturgy continues with the celebration of the Eucharist where we celebrate our rising again with Christ. With great fanfare, the organ, which has been silent for three days, is played once again to help lift our hearts to God in song and praise.