Technically speaking, Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday. We had a great Palm Sunday service, with warm temperatures, sunshine, and the usual blessing of the palms outside, at the gate to our Memorial Garden. Once the palms are blessed and distributed, we process around the outside of the church to the big front doors (that are only open two days a year). We chant Psalm 118 as we walk, and then go forward with the normal service, except a very long gospel reading -- the Passion reading (Palm Sunday is also called "Passion Sunday" because of this). We have readers for the parts or characters in the reading. I don't preach much of a sermon on Palm Sunday; there hardly seems anything one can add to that story. I did encourage folks to reflect on the variety of meanings of the word "Passion," however: passion as "passivity" (same Latin root word), as "suffering" (like com-passion, suffering-with), and as "ardent love" -- it was Christ's love for God that led him to obedience to what he perceived as God's will, regardless of the consequences. At any rate, one fairly new parishioner said that ours was the most beautiful Palm Sunday service she had ever attended. Now that felt good!
Here you see my little Holy Week wreath, with dark red ribbon (the liturgical color for Holy Week), hanging on my front door. I also like it because the grapevine resembles a crown of thorns.
Holy week is seriously my favorite week of the year. It's a really poignant juxtaposition of the beauty of springtime and the bleakness of the suffering and death of Jesus. It's the one season of the Church year where I never fail to enter, at some level, into that liminal space that has one foot in the outer, material world, and one foot in the spiritual world, that place I call the kingdom of heaven, where everything is very real and all is present now. I love it. I especially love the culmination of Holy Week, the Great Vigil of Easter, which is held after sunset on Holy Saturday, or early, early, before sunrise on Easter Day. It's a dark and mysterious service that begins in darkness (dusk, anyway) and then suddenly, there's the light of the new fire, the new Paschal candle, and the chanting procession into the church, where I chant, "The light of Christ," and the congregation, processing after me, responds, "Thanks be to God!" Then, in the darkened church, I chant the Exsultet, the whole thing, which is a lovely, mystical sound. We have a series of readings that describe salvation history, and then the lights come up on the newly beflowered church, and the first glorious "Alleluia!" of the Easter season is said. We pass from darkness to light in that service, from slavery to freedom, from death to resurrection. We have champagne in the communion chalice, and a celebratory champagne reception after the service. Easter morning, while lovely, is truly an anticlimax to this glorious and dramatic service. I guess there's a bit of "ham" in every priest, but the mystery of that night passage from death to life is palpable.
You can see that it's hardly more than a dusting, but still -- in April? And get this -- tomorrow is forecast to be sunny and 58 degrees! Go figure on the weather around here. This is what spring is like on the Cumberland Plateau. Two years ago this kind of weather killed a lot of plants, and we had hardly any apple harvest that fall. But it was more days of cold, and a harder freeze -- at least I hope that's the case. My apple trees haven't quite blossomed yet, but they're just about to.
And I want to get out in my garden! My grapes need tying up and pruning, and the beds need weeding and mulching, and the paths need weeding and mulching, and I have peas, spinach, and lettuce to plant. Sigh. I'm longing to get out there. Plus I'm so close to having the labyrinth finished, and I'd love to have it done by Easter Day. Maybe two more loads of rocks is all it will take.
So I hope you all have a gloriously rich and meaningful Holy Week. Our services start tonight (Evening Prayer and Stations of the Cross), and then go tomorrow (Tenebrae), Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Holy Week is always a marathon, but it's a wonderful one. I may not see you till I'm on the other side of it.
And don't forget that we celebrate Easter for fifty days! Talk about a good, long holiday season!