Saturday, 19 April 2014

On Doing Holy Week Anglicanly: More on Retirement and Things I Would or Would Not Do Differently

The best Easters I’ve experienced have always followed a fully observed Holy Week. Palm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and The Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday. I’m usually thoroughly weary by Easter Sunday morning, but does it ever light up. Taking the time to follow Jesus on his journey through that last week makes it real and rich. We don’t even do anything particularly creative. Just the liturgies as they appear in The Book of Alternative Services straight up and unadorned. It just works.

Lately, we’ve not observed the Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. When we did—and they helped deliver the best Easters—we would do an early morning Eucharist on Monday with Evening Prayer and even Compline some years, followed by Morning Prayer on Tuesday morning, a Eucharist at noon and Evening Prayer, and then Morning Prayer and a Eucharist around supper time on Wednesday. We did it that way so as many people as possible could experience as many liturgies as possible. It was rich.

Maundy Thursday has always included foot washing exactly as laid out in the book. I’ve never organized anyone to come to have their feet washed before hand. Some always come. We’ve also provided a couple of stations for people to wash one another’s feet. It is so moving to see grandchildren washing their grandmother’s feet and vice versa—wives and husbands, friends. We acknowledge this day is so named because of Jesus’ new commandment (latin: maundate) to love one another. We give thanks for the institution of the Eucharist. Afterwards, the altar is stripped and all the decorations and colour are removed as the lights are extinguished. We depart in silence. It never fails to move me.

Medicine Hat Good Friday’s have always begun for me with the Evangelical Association service in the morning—an extroverted, high energy affair with close to two thousand souls present every year. To miss that out of Anglican liturgical sensitivity would be wrong, especially when I know I can also indulge my Anglican quietism in an hour of silent meditation on The Stations of the Cross in the church in the afternoon before The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion—again, straight out of the book. It’s quiet, holy and lovely.

And then The Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday. We do it at sundown. This year that means 822pm. We light the new fire, process into the darkened church behind the Pascal Candle. Candles are lit and the Exultet is sung as the church is redecorated with hangings and Easter lilies. We listen to lots of Scripture (thirteen readings!) telling the story of our Salvation, we baptize people or re-affirm our baptismal vows and we celebrate the Eucharist. Sometimes we roast marshmallows over a re-kindled new fire out behind the hall afterwards. It’s wonderful.

Finally, it’s Easter morning. Jesus Christ is risen today! Lively. Joyful. All the more luminous because of the quiet, darker days before.

I’m a soon to be retired Anglican priest and I’m okay.