A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Completing the Lenten journey

In our Mid-Week Update, I explained something of what Maundy Thursday and Good Friday would look like this year during Holy Week observances with First Pres this year. Today, I want to talk about what will happen on Holy Saturday, Easter, and beyond.

Holy Saturday is often the forgotten day of the Triduum, the ancient Christian name for the three days of observances before Easter. We have Maundy Thursday, in which we recall the Last Supper and the institution of the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s “new commandment” that we love one another just as Christ has loved us.

We have Good Friday, in which we remember Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and burial. And then there is Holy Saturday, in which…well, not a lot happens. That makes a certain degree of sense, theologically; even the Gospel accounts go past it with barely a mention, because on Saturday, Jesus is dead and buried, so by definition nothing is happening in the story.

But Holy Saturday is actually the oldest part of Christian Holy Week observances, going back to the early observances of the ancient church, and before the Middle Ages it was the best-attended service of the year! It was actually a vigil that began Saturday evening, went all night with prayer, and then ended at dawn with a celebration of Communion on Easter morning.

Well, even with the extra time many of us have during this pandemic, we’re not going that far, but perhaps this is a good year to experience our own gesture to this ancient practice with a Holy Saturday Compline Service, that preserves the spirit of those vigils with a service of contemplative and sung prayer on Saturday evening. It’s less than an hour long, so don’t worry about that! But it is a wonderful way of spiritually “keeping watch” between Good Friday and Easter morning that I encourage you to experience online this year; the Facebook Live link will be available at 7 p.m. on Saturday and you can play it any time after that on your own (either from our Facebook page or our website “Important Updates” box).

Easter, of course, will be celebrated via Facebook Live on Sunday with our contemporary service at 9 a.m. and our traditional service at 11 a.m., as we have been doing since March 15. As has been the case with Palm Sunday and our other Holy Week services, that will no doubt bring some sense of loss and grief as we are unable to gather in person for this greatest celebration and service of the Christian year. Yet I think it will also help us to hear the Easter story in some new and powerful ways, so I hope you will join one of the livestreams as we give thanks to God that “Christ is risen; he is risen indeed!”

On Monday, April 13, the church pastors and staff will be taking a day of rest after a particularly demanding Lenten season and Holy Week (in case of an urgent pastoral concern, call the main church office at 610-867-5865 and follow the instructions for reaching the on-call pastor).

And starting Tuesday, April 14, in addition to our other ministry programs, we will be holding Zoom gatherings at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays, hosted by one of the pastors, that will include a brief meditation or Bible study and a time to request prayer and pray together as a digital community. There will be links on the homepage of our website, as well as call-in information so you can join by phone if you do not have access to WiFi or adequate computer hardware (call your Deacon if you need the call-in instructions). So if you are feeling isolated, in need of prayer, or are looking for a way to be of service to others, I encourage you to join this new online ministry.

In any case, I look forward to completing our journey through Lent and Holy Week and to celebrating Christ’s resurrection with you on Sunday!

Grace and peace,

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