Giotto, The Arena Chapel Frescoes: Palm Sunday
1305-1306As in all the synoptic gospels, the people spread their clothes out before Jesus as He approaches Jerusalem, a gate of which is shown on the right. Giotto here shows them removing their clothes in order to do so, although the gospels do not include this detail. As in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, others cut branches from the trees to strew in His path. As in John, they are specifically palm trees and a branch is being used, by the second figure to the right of the colt, to acclaim Jesus. The haloed figures following Jesus are, of course, the apostles. More of Palm Sunday Source: Web Gallery of Art
Holy Week: Why We Do the Things We Do,
by Father Eric Dudley, St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Tallahassee, Florida
Palm Sunday marks the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. As with all Liturgical Seasons, our objective is to trace the steps of Jesus, that our lives might be marked by His. Palm Sunday traces his steps, as He entered Jerusalem for the last time. We begin outside of the church [as He began outside of Jerusalem], where we bless the palms. We joyously process into the church, where we celebrate the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry. The people waved palm branches, as they shouted, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Because the jubilant waving of fronds is soon followed by betrayal, it is our custom to save the palm crosses we receive on Palm Sunday and return them to the church before the next Ash Wednesday [the first day of Lent] so that they might be burned and ground into the ash that is placed on our foreheads.
Opportunities for private Confession with a priest are available the first three days of Holy Week. As we follow the steps of Jesus toward the Cross, we come face to face with our own betrayal of the Lord. Reconciliation of a Penitent [page 447 of the Book of Common Prayer] is the form we use for private Confession. The confession is made in the privacy of a prayer room and the priest is committed to maintaining utter confidentiality. [We fully realize that Confession with a priest is not necessary to know the forgiveness of God. It is just as legitimate to kneel by your bed and offer your confessions. However, for some it is enormously powerful and cathartic to be able to say aloud to another human being the particular things that reflect that person’s separation from God and to hear a priest say aloud to those particular things, God has forgiven them!]
The name Maundy Thursday comes from a Latin word, Mandatum, which means command. This is the day that commemorates the Last Supper in the Upper Room, where Jesus commanded the disciples to love one another and then showed them an example of that love, by washing their feet. Because this day commemorates the first Last Supper, the Holy Eucharist is the centerpiece of the Liturgy. After communion, participants have the opportunity to have their feet washed, and/or wash someone else’s feet, downstairs in the Parish Hall. [This takes place during Communion, so that people are coming and going downstairs, while Communion is happening upstairs. This Washing of Feet is a very simple and solemn exercise, which is guided by a Verger in the Parish Hall.
After the Eucharist, the Sacrament is reserved: [all the bread, left over from Communion, representing the Living Presence of our Lord, is taken from us and placed on an Altar in the Parish Hall, which has been set up as a Chapel] and the Altar in the Sanctuary is stripped. The Stripping of the Altar can be a very moving event, as a solitary priest removes everything beautiful from the Sanctuary [the area around the Altar] and then removes his own vestments. This process represents the stripping of our Lord, as he was prepared for Crucifixion. The Altar is left bare, until Easter Day. After the service, a Vigil is kept, in the Parish Hall, where the reserved Sacrament remains on the Altar: [a representation of the disciples waiting with the Lord in Gethsemane.] Some wait for ten minutes and some wait for the remainder of the evening. However long one is able to wait, this is a lovely time for quiet meditation. A priest enters the Parish Hall at midnight, consumes what is left of the sacrament, and extinguishes the candles. Good Friday has begun.
On Good Friday, there is a simple service [one at Noon and one at 7.00 PM], where the Passion Gospel is read and a large wooden Cross is processed. The Cross is placed at the Altar and the clergy and congregation kneel, in silent veneration. Veneration is followed by a series of prayers and said anthems, which offer our confessions and give thanks for the sacrificial love of God in Christ. The Cross is draped in black and we depart.
The joy of Easter Day is startling, after the solemn observances of Holy Week. The Lord is Risen and the church is full of flowers, bells, trumpets, and Allelluias! This is the central Feast of the Church: the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the day that gives meaning to all the other days and we pull out all the stops!