The pilgrim path of Holy Week

Baptisms at the Vigil in Taiwan.

The church Erin and I served as missionaries in Taiwan did Holy Week with great devotion and energy.  Palm Sunday we processed over a half-mile through the muggy air around a university campus past gawking students and lazy banyan trees, waving our palm branches and humming our hosannas.  Maundy Thursday the parish reconvened for the Triduum (the name we give to the three days of Maundy Thursday through the Easter Vigil) with a solemn meal, reminiscent of Passover, with lamb and roasted eggs and wine.  Good Friday the church was dark but for a brief service of communion from the reserve sacrament, and then Saturday arrived…

All my life I experienced Easter Sunday morning as a highlight at church, trumped only by Christmas.  I had never been to a church that observed the Easter Vigil, even my own sponsoring parish in Seattle (they’ve since come around).  We gathered in the dark of night, a light drizzle falling, and kindled a fire near the eaves of the church.  Huddled in the cool mist, the light and warmth of the new fire burst into our lives as a welcome presence – I didn’t miss the symbolism.  We sang as we processed with the Paschal Candle into the church.  In the half-light, through the haze of incense, I watched as a dear friend knelt in his white robe, in the waters of the baptismal, and shed more than one tear as he was sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.  It was a powerful experience, that first Holy Week.  I lived and experienced each day like a pilgrim or a wayfarer.  It was disorienting enough to make me pay attention, and it was potent enough in its imagery to hold that attention and not let it go.

This year, as in years past, at St. Alban’s we will all be invited as pilgrims down this path of Holy Week.  We will begin this Sunday with Palms and Waffles, with Hosannas and then crucifixion (always a jarring juxtaposition).  In the early part of the week (Mon-Wed) we will gather in the early mornings for a simple Eucharist and hear sermons preached by parishioners.  Thursday we will have our own solemn meal together in Nourse Hall (food is provided) and then a service of Eucharist and Foot washing in the church, and keep watch as a community in the garden overlooking the city.  Good Friday we will have opportunities to hear and envision the Stations of the Cross, to meditate with the music of Brahms, and then to venerate the cross in the liturgy of Good Friday.  Come for part, or all, of the liturgy of the hours (noon-3) or come in the evening for an even more contemplative Good Friday service with Taize.  Finally, come to the Great Vigil of Easter (Saturday night at 7) when we will kindle the new fire in front of Nourse Hall on Wisconsin Avenue and then process into the church to hear our common story, and watch as adults and infants pass through the waters of baptism.  Then join us after for champagne (bring a bottle to share – you’ll be glad you did), cake, and festive fare as we celebrate the highest moment in our life as Church – Easter!  It promises to be a powerful experience as we participate and are reminded as a community that our life together is bound up in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We are Easter-oriented people on this pilgrim way passing from the wilderness into this wonderful community known as the body of Christ, moving always from death, to new life!  Won’t you join us?

About stalbansparish

St. Alban's Parish is a vibrant and diverse Episcopal Church in Washington, DC near the National Cathedral. We come from every walk of life, every culture and context, and every corner of this region. St. Alban's Parish is active in the city, engaging social issues, and making the reconciling love of Christ known in word and deed. We have ministries for children, youth, young adults, adults, and the elderly. We have outreach programs that address homelessness, poverty, the environment, and hunger. We believe in being open and inclusive to all people no matter disability, age, income, gender, race, or sexual orientation. We welcome the faithful, the seeker, and the doubter, because God's embrace is wide, and God's good news is for all people. We want you to come, participate, grow in God's love, and become a part of the Body of Christ at St. Alban's!
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