Next Level Holy Week by the Rev. Ben Robertson

We are in the midst of Holy Week, the greatest week of the Church year.  During this momentous week, Jesus was quite busy: the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the last supper with the Apostles, the washing of feet, a night of anxious prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ arrest and sham trial, the crucifixion, being laid in a tomb, and – last and certainly not least! – Jesus’ glorious resurrection.  Scholars believe Jesus did even more that fateful week: cursing the fig tree, cleansing the Temple, answering questions about taxes (“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s …”), giving the Great Commandment, and being anointed with precious nard.  I feel guilty for being so tired after merely going to work, juggling the kids extracurriculars, preparing meals, and other household chores!

We will mark this Holy Week with several worship opportunities (which are lisare listed hereted here).  However, I want to highlight two offerings that sometimes get overlooked, but can be profoundly meaningful and significantly enrich your Holy Week.

One is the Vigil at the Altar of Repose.  After our Maundy Thursday observances – Eucharist, Foot Washing, the beautiful Agape Feast, and the Stripping of the Altar – the last remaining containers of blessed bread and wine are taken to the back of the Chapel, veiled, and placed on a small table.  According to Sharon Ely Pearson, “to be on a vigil is to be wakeful for a purpose.  To the ancient Romans, that could be to stand guard, spy on the activities of a possible enemy, or prepare for a holy occasion.”  Keeping vigil with Christ’s body and blood is reminiscent of Jesus’ time in the Garden, when he prayed, “my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want,” (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus’ followers tried to sit and pray with him, but they kept falling asleep!   Jesus remarked, “so, could you not stay awake with me one hour?”  Remembering the apostles sleepiness, and in preparation for Good Friday, the Church invites her members to again keep watch, sit with Jesus, and pray.  In the Chapel, we will have some meditations to read, a finger labyrinth to use, or you may simply sit and pray.  Our Vigil will conclude with Compline at midnight, joined by our youth who are spending Thursday night “locked-in” at the Chapel.  No sign up is required and there is no prescribed time – simply join us in the Chapel sometime from the conclusion of the Maundy Thursday liturgy until 12.

The other is Confession.  Every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, except during the seasons of Easter and Christmas, we pray a corporate (group) confession, asking for God’s forgiveness for, “what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”  But the Episcopal Church also offers individual confession, officially called “Reconciliation of a Penitent” on page 447 of the Book of Common Prayer.  When we hear the word confession, we may be reminded of parodies of the Roman rite of Confession: in booths with bumbling priests attempting to process notorious sins.  Our Confession is not in a booth, and hopefully Will or I won’t bumble more than normal, but you and a priest share a beautiful, personal liturgy, containing some of the most evocative language in the Prayer Book, including, “Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and are found; you were dead, and are now alive in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Go in peace.  The Lord has put away all your sins.”  Those words always put a lump in my throat.  Do be aware that there is time in the liturgy to name your particular sins, if you feel so called, but also know that the priest is bound to strict confidentiality.  You may schedule a Confession anytime, but Will and I are intentionally available for this rite on Good Friday afternoon, from the conclusion of the Good Friday service until 3, in honor of the time Jesus hung on the cross.

If you have any questions about the Vigil or Confession, please ask.  I pray these and all our Holy Week offerings will deepen your spiritual journey and enliven your Easter joy.

Keep the Faith,