It’s fair to say that I am really not a morning person and I tend to dread the bleep of the alarm each morning at 6:30 which says that its time to get up. That is all except for Easter Sunday morning. For then – by some sheer miracle – I always find myself positively overjoyed to set the alarm for 4:30am! Why? Because “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb” (John 20:1). The Dawn Vigil of Easter is one my absolute favourite services of the whole year. There is something truly wonderful and magical in following Mary Magdalene’s footsteps that first Easter morning as Christians gather before the tomb – early on that morning and while it is still dark – to celebrate the news of the risen Son as they watch the rising Sun bring the start of another Easter day. Here at St Michael’s we celebrate the first Holy Communion of Easter at 8am that morning but you never know – it might still be quite gloomy by then!
One of the reasons I think Christians across the world find the services and events of the final part of Holy Week so moving and spiritually enlightening is that within them, we are each invited to follow the footsteps of those who were with Jesus in his final moments. Rather than just viewing them as ‘church’ or (yet another) ‘service’, our worship during Holy Week is only really to be understood when we see it as a dramatic retelling of the story of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which we are each invited to play a part in.
We begin the Triduum (a fancy term for the final days of Holy Week) on Maundy Thursday when we meet in the evening (8pm) to commemorate the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples, before gathering in the Garden of Gethsemane (aka the Lady Chapel) to watch and wait with Christ as the disciples were asked to do, just prior to his arrest. On Good Friday we gather from 12noon-3pm as we remember Jesus’ crucifixion when at “noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon” and “at three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice….and breathed his last” (Mark 15). All are welcome to stay for the whole three hours, or to just come for a part of that time, as we gather together – like Christians across the globe and across the centuries – for this devotion and to follow in the footsteps of those who were there to witness the crucifixion of Christ, even if most of them were there for all the wrong reasons.
Finally, after journeying with Jesus Christ and his followers through the final days of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion we are able to celebrate with them the resurrection of our Lord on Easter morning (8am and 10am).
These services that we celebrate each Holy Week, as Christians throughout the world will celebrate and have done so since the earliest days of our faith, are not three separate events (although they can easily be seen that way), but rather they are three acts of the same dramatic play and they can only make sense when they are each seen as a part of the whole drama and story.
As we each continue our Lenten journey this March, and approach the events of Holy Week towards the end of this month, I invite you to become a part of that dramatic storytelling as we will gather as a Church to commemorate the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Particularly, if you’ve never been to either of these services before, why not consider joining us this year, if you are able to? To follow in those footsteps of Jesus and his disciples and to partake in the dramatic retelling of those events throughout or worship that week has been for many Christians a truly moving and spiritual experience. So much so that it can even get me up at silly-o-clock Easter Sunday morning and I’ll be joyful about it! All are always most welcome to join us for our worship here at St Michael’s, so why not come along and see what it’s all about?
Full details of all our Holy Week and Easter services can be found here.