Holy Week


Triumphal Enter into Jerusalem - HosannaJesus entering Jerusalem

Traditionally, the week before Easter is called Holy Week. It starts on Palm Sunday. Holy week began today.  It is the last week of the penitential church Season of Lent. 

Palm Sunday
In the Bible, Holy Week begins with a religious festival. People have flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and see the controversial prophet Jesus. Many come to cheer him on as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. They wave palm Branches and shout “Hosanna,” which means “save us,” a Jewish call of lamentation that has since become a call of praise. Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a Donkey.  Jesus’ triumphal entry fulfills an Old Testament prophecy and is seen as a sign of humility. Some who cheer him that day will inevitably cry “Crucify him” only a few days later, so the memory of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem is a time of mixed joy and sadness.

Maundy Thursday
In the evening of this day Jesus met with his disciples for the last time before his death. Before the meal, he washes their feet, another sign of humility. During the meal, he prophesies that one of the disciples will betray him. On this evening, Christians are thinking of Christ’s establishment of the sacrament of Holy Communion. In many congregations, a worship service occurs in the evening, in which the congregants come together for a Eucharist meal, just as the first Christians celebrated it. Often after the communion, the altar is cleared, and left unadorned on Good Friday.

Good Friday
On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified. He was tortured and killed. His suffering is therefore at the heart of this day. But it also commemorates the suffering of mankind in general, because through Jesus, God has sided with the suffering. The day is quietly celebrated as Christians contemplate Jesus’ suffering and death. Together with Easter, Good Friday forms the centerpiece of the Christian message of good news: God is stronger than Death! On that day Jesus suffered all that a man can suffer to atone for the sins of mankind. Sin and Death did not have the last word. God raised Jesus as he will one day raise all believers who die in Christ.

Holy Saturday
On the evening of Good Friday, Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried. On Saturday, the Sabbath, that would not have been allowed. So Saturday is the full day that he was dead. In the creed, this means Jesus descended into Hell, or the realm of the dead. We aren’t sure what that is and what it is like there, but the message that Jesus was “resurrected on the third day” provides confidence that at the end of the age God will resurrect Christian believers.

Easter Night
The Bible doesn’t describe the physical resurrection of Jesus. On Easter morning, the women find the empty tomb and are told by an angel that Jesus was resurrected. That might have occurred at night, because in the Jewish Tradition the day begins with the night (“It was evening and it was morning, the first day”). Easter (Saturday) night belongs to Easter Sunday. The resurrection is celebrated on this “night,” mostly in the early hours of the morning, but in some places it is celebrated on Saturday evening. It is a celebration that, in its design, leads from darkness to light. At its climax many congregations light the new Pascal candle declaring “Hallelujah, Christ is risen; He is risen indeed.”

Easter Sunday
The women who discover Jesus empty tomb are the first to spread the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. In the course of this and the next few days many people meet Jesus and witness the resurrected Son of God. In the early church congregations met regularly for a common Sacrament the day after the Sabbath to commemorate the resurrection. In the Christian context, Sunday was thus marked as the most important day of the week and as a day of rest.

An invitation:
Easter occurs on April 21st this year. For readers in the Sioux Falls area, you are invited to attend an Easter Sunrise service conducted by Church of the Resurrection (www.resurrectionsf.com). The service will begin at 7a.m. at the McKennan Park bandshell. Bring lawn chairs. The service will occur rain or shine.

 

 

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