Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thoughts on Holy Week

All things considered, if I had Holy Week to do over again, I probably would have opted for live blogging instead of re-running my Stations of the Cross. It occurred to me today (now that the hustle and bustle is over) that this was in fact my first Holy Week as an ordained person. I suppose next year I will live blog Holy Week as my first Holy Week as a priest.

It is sort of hard to believe that this was my first Holy Week as an ordained person. For three years in seminary and then a year before that as an intern in a church, I have always had liturgical roles during Holy Week. In some ways, Holy Week this year was less work than last year because I only had one Holy Week to worry about. When I was in seminary, I basically had two full Holy Weeks crammed into one because we had an entire series of Holy Week liturgies at Seabury and I was also a visiting seminarian at a local parish in Chicago, so I basically had to participate in their Holy Week services as well. On top of that, I had to coordinate the Sunday morning Easter Brunch at Seabury.

In some ways, Holy Week was less work this year. Although I was in charge of getting all the full length bulletins printed for the week, which was a full time job in itself. Only two minor snafu's with the printing of the bulletins. We realized after the Easter morning bulletin was printed and stuffed that the cover was completely wrong. We then had to reprint that and re-stuff. We also realized too late that the readers for the Easter Vigil were all screwed up, but seeing as it was too late and that the Vigil Bulletin was 18 pages long, we opted not to reprint those. I did have to run around at the last minute and straighten out who was reading what. (We seemingly read through the entire Old Testament in one sitting at the Easter Vigil.)

Other than that, I think everything for Holy Week went pretty smoothly. Five things stick out to me as I recall the week. We did the whole schpeel since we have clergy to burn at this parish. This included the all night Maundy Thursday vigil and Stations of the Cross at Noon on Good Friday.

One was that I was shocked (and somewhat dismayed) to learn that St. Mark's was the only Episcopal Church in Lincoln (there are 3 others) that was doing an Easter Vigil of any kind. The Easter Vigil is one of the best services of the year, and I cannot imagine not doing anything. I can understand wanting to do it earlier in the evening and not have a midnight mass thing going, but to not do anything? That did not sit too well with me.

The second and third has to do with the Maundy Thursday service. During the stripping of the altar, that was the first time I had to remove the reserve sacrament from the ambry and leave the door open, as usually the priest or deacon does that. I think I was about to hyperventilate or something when I did that, as that is always the part of the Maundy Thursday that gets me. Having to do that personally was most shocking.

The other bizarre thing that sticks out in my mind from Maundy Thursday was the weird liturgical item that is used at St. Mark's called a hearse. I had to google search what a Maundy Thursday hearse was because I didn't have any idea what it was. I had never heard of or seen anything like it, which is saying something because it is not too often that I come across a liturgical item that I have never even heard of. After the stripping of the altar, they brought out this big black triangular thing with 15 candles and set it on the altar to create an altar of repose and then I brought out the veiled ciborium. From my google searching, I think it is some misuse of a Tenebrae candelabra.

The first time I saw the black triangular hearse outside the sacristy, I was rather horrified that after a stripping of the altar, something would be brought in and placed on the altar. That seemed a little counter intuitive to me at first. But I have to admit that it was impressive when I came in to sit for the watch at 1 AM to see this huge black candle thing on the altar of repose. If it had been on a side altar, I would have liked it better, but on the main altar, I had a few liturgical issues with. But, what can I say, "We've always done it that way!"

The other thing that struck me was unplanned. An assistant priest almost passed out at the end of the Good Friday liturgy. She's fine, just got a little light headed from a combination of her cold and too many layers of clothing. My first Good Friday service as a clergyman, and the priest dramatically passes out. I imagine I will use that story in a sermon at some future point.

The last thing that strikes me is the singing of the exultet for the Easter Vigil. I rather enjoy chanting, so it wasn't a big thing to me. Everyone kept asking if I was nervous. I really was not. It was actually kind of fun to sing in the dark as candles are being lit. Who knows if I get to do that again, as usually a deacon sings the exultet. I hope so. I imagine a deacon will be more than happy to pass the buck on that at future times.

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