“What’s the Deal with Holy Week?”

“So, what’s the deal with Holy Week? -Jerry Seinfeld.

Okay. So Jerry Seinfeld didn’t say that, I did, but I enjoy imagining Jerry Seinfeld said it. No matter who said it, the question resonates with many who have little experience with Episcopal ways of practicing Christianity. To some it seems like whiplash. We go from zero to 60 in 3 seconds. We go from casual and easy going to suddenly solemn and serious. In short, Holy Week is really important to us. My first Holy Week as an Episcopalian had me at once exhausted and exhilarated. It was intense and introspective. It was raw and real. I haven’t experienced Easter or the Christian faith the same way since.

So what is it?

In short, Holy Week is the week that leads up to Easter. It begins with Palm Sunday and culminates with Easter Sunday celebrations. During this week, Episcopal churches meet each day to retell, remember, and re-enact the last days of Jesus’ life and ministry. As I write this, we are inching ever closer to the Triduum, the three Holy Days beginning with Maundy Thursday, the day Jesus shared a final meal with his disciples, washed their feet, and commanded them to love each other. Most Episcopal churches will observe a Maundy Thursday service which can include foot washing, Holy Communion, and the stripping of the altar. There is also usually a service on Good Friday, where we remember his betrayal and execution with the veneration of the cross. We gather to read the stories of salvation history and to break bread in a firelight vigil on Saturday night, and of course we celebrate in grand fashion on Sunday morning.

Retelling and re-enacting the tragic events of Thursday and Friday are essential to fully grasping the jubilation of Sunday. The ugly parts of the story are important for us because they, perhaps more than any other part, imitate our lives. We can all relate to things falling apart. We can all attest that life throws curve balls. That we get caught up in things we can’t avoid. That we are at times both the betrayed and the betrayer. We need to connect honestly with those parts of ourselves if we are to grasp what it means to be forgiven and to walk in the light of hope. Our relationships depend on our ability to forgive and receive forgiveness. And everything in the whole wide world is contingent upon our relationships.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Holy Week schedule at my church. You can find it here. Or look around and find services at another church. I promise it’s worth every moment of your time.

I wish you a rich Holy Week and a Blessed Easter.

Fr. Josh+