The week preceding Easter observed throughout catholic Christendom both in the East and the West is a period of devotion to the Passion of Christ. The traditional rites associated with this week probably began to develop in Jerusalem in the 4th century as pilgrims began to re-enact the last scenes of the life of Christ in liturgical drama.  Their liturgies became refined during the next few centuries and the Holy Week liturgies that we will celebrate at St. Paul’s on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday in the Great Vigil of Easter are these very liturgies. There is an extraordinary witness of millions of Christians in our catholic Traditions who have and continue to celebrate these last scenes in the earthly life of Christ. Will you join in that witness?
Palm branches, singing and procession initiate this most holy time of the Christian liturgical year. From Palm Sunday we move to a new place on Wednesday in Holy Week. The Women of the Passion provides us with a dramatic enactment of the events of this week. The Sacred Triduum (Sacred Three Days) begins on Maundy Thursday. We remember the First Eucharist and Jesus command to all of us to be persons of love, service and acceptance. At the conclusion of our worship we remove all traces of our Christian heritage from the sanctuary and strip the altar. This dramatic symbol reminds us that Christ was stripped and beaten for our sakes. The stark look of the focus of our worship is also stripped bare.
Clergy in all catholic Traditions are forbidden to celebrate Holy Eucharist on Good Friday. At St. Paul’s we will not have Communion distributed from Reserved Sacrament. This one day of the Christian year we abstain from taking the Body and Blood of our Lord into ourselves and we mourn along with the mother of Jesus and his disciples. What those early disciples did not know, we know! At the Great Vigil (also known as the Paschal Vigil) we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the Principal Celebration of Easter! Unfortunately, in many Christian traditions, including ours, the significance and meaning of this powerful celebration was lost for a long time. It has been revived and we will celebrate it at St. Paul’s for the first time in several years. The celebration of the Great Vigil is called the principal celebration of Easter because it re-enacts in liturgical drama Christ as the new light, reminds us of our long journey through Salvation History as we remember our commitment to Christ in our personal spiritual death and resurrection in Baptism. Our worship concludes with Holy Communion in a moving liturgy. Christians who gather for the Great Vigil come away refreshed and renewed!
Please make every attempt to avail yourselves of these liturgies and the dramatic reading of The Women of the Passion. These gatherings can be deeply meaningful to each of us as we end our Lenten journey to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, our Lord!
 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
~ Fr. Al Jewson
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.