This Sunday is Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week, the most important week of the year on the Christian calendar. In the next week, we will have a range of services that commemorate Jesus’ activities the week leading up to his resurrection from the dead. Palm Sunday begins the week with a service celebrating Jesus’ provocative and triumphal entry into Jerusalem, accompanied by crowds of people laying palms on the road before him as a tribute to an arriving king. 

Later in the week, though, things take a sharp turn into rejection, betrayal, crucifixion, and death. The church has called these services, held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of Holy Week, the “Triduum” since ancient times. The Triduum follows the Jewish tradition of marking days, since all of Jesus’ followers that were with him through the events of Holy Week were, of course, Jewish.

That means it begins on the evening of Maundy Thursday, in which we recall the institution of the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s “new commandment” that we love one another just as Christ has loved us (the word “Maundy” comes from the Latin for “mandate” or “commandment”). We will observe Maundy Thursday with a contemplative communion service in the Fellowship Hall at 7 p.m. It will include prayers, music, and the sacrament of Communion, and will be available both in person and online. 

The second night of the Triduum begins on Friday night, which we observe as Good Friday with a Service of Tenebrae. Tenebrae is Latin for “darkness,” and that is what the service involves: walking through the sequence of Jesus’ arrest, trial, torment, crucifixion, death, and burial by reading the Scriptural stories from the Gospel of Matthew in sequence, along with hymns or anthems and time for silent reflection.

After each passage is read, a candle on the Communion table is extinguished and the lights of the Sanctuary are lowered, until only the Christ candle is left. It is then processed out of the Sanctuary, symbolizing the light of Christ going out of the world at his death, and the Sanctuary is left in total darkness until the service concludes, at which point enough light is returned to safely exit in silence. It is a very moving service, and I hope you can join in person in the Sanctuary or online.

Holy Saturday, in many ways, is the forgotten time of the Triduum, but this was not always the case. It 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 a vigil that began Saturday evening, went all night with prayer, and then ended at dawn with a celebration of Communion on Easter morning.

While we do not hold an all-night vigil, we do observe this tradition in our own way 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 a hour long, but it is a wonderful way of spiritually “keeping watch” between Good Friday and Easter morning that I encourage you to experience, again either in person in the Sanctuary or online. 

Easter, of course, will be celebrated with our “Holy Ground” contemporary service at 9 a.m. and our traditional service at 11 a.m. as we gather in person and online to give thanks to God that “Christ is risen; he is risen indeed!” And that will close our observance of the Triduum, which officially concludes Sunday evening, the end of the third day. I hope you will participate in as many of these rich Holy Week offerings as you are able. I look forward to completing our journey through Lent and Holy Week and to celebrating Christ’s resurrection with you on Easter!

Grace and Peace,