Tuesday in Easter-Week

(22 April 2014)

The Collect:
ALMIGHTY God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ has overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech you, that as by your special grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

The Readings:
1 Kings 17:17-24; Psalm 16:9-11; Acts 13:26-41; Luke 24:36-48

Reflection:
Once more today we read of Jesus’ appearances to the disciples and hear of him “opening their minds to the Scriptures” such that they understand his death and resurrection as fulfillments of Old Testament prophesies. Once more the New Testament reading includes a sample of apostolic preaching declaring that salvation is found only through the death and resurrection of Christ, and quotes the Psalm (among other passages) as an example of such a prophecy. The Old Testament story of Elijah resurrecting a widow’s only son, while not exactly a prophecy of Christ, serves as an example for God’s people: upon the resurrection of her son, the widow praised God and increased in faith – the same should be our response to the Easter proclamation of the resurrection of Christ our Savior.

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Monday in Easter-Week

(21 April 2014)

The Collect:
ALMIGHTY God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ has overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech you, that as by your special grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

The Readings:
Hosea 6:1-6; Pascha Nostrum*; Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:13-35

Reflection:
Continuing the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel brings us to another pair of witnesses who encountered the risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus. During that encounter they were taught about how the Old Testament Scriptures prophesy concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection. This truth is repeated in the New Testament reading, an excerpt of St. Peter’s preaching. The Old Testament reading, thus, is an example of one such subtle prophecy, as it declares “on the third day he will restore us.” And not only is the unity of the Scriptures upheld through these teachings, but also the theme of salvation from Christ stands out.

* The Pascha Nostrum is comrpised of 1 Cor. 5:7-8 and Romans 6:9-11 and 1 Cor. 15:20-22…

Alleluia! Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;
therefore let us keep the feast,
not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia!

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin,
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia!

Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death,
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia!

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Easter Day

(20 April 2014)

The Collect:
ALMIGHTY God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ has overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech you, that as by your special grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

The Readings:
Exodus 12:21-27; Psalm 111; Colossians 3:1-11; John 20:1-10

Reflection:
At last, the day of resurrection arrives, concluding the season of Lent and initiating the season of Easter. As the resurrection of Jesus is clearly set forth, complete with multiple witnesses in the Gospel reading, today’s celebration aptly applies the resurrection to all God’s people. The Epistle chimes in with the reminder that we have died with Christ and been raised with Christ, by virtue of our union with him in Baptism (in a similar way to how the Passover celebration described in the Old Testament reading united God’s people to the Old Covenant). The Epistle then goes on to direct us toward heavenly Christ-like lifestyles and attitudes, which is also the prayer of the Collect. The Psalm, thus, is an example to get us started focusing our attention on heavenly things by celebrating God for his works of provision, including our very redemption.

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Easter-Even, Holy Saturday

(19 April 2014)

The Collects:
GRANT, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of your blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him : and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection ; for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hates nothing that you have made and forgives the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Readings:
Job 14:1-14; Psalm 142; 1 Peter 3:17-22; Matthew 27:57-66

Reflection:
This day, between the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, is about the reality of death. Jesus’ death is very clear in the Gospel, even noting a brief funeral, a sealed cave, and soldiers to guard it so nobody could steal the body and start false rumors. As for us, Job, in the Old Testament, laments that death is inevitable and expresses a faint hope that another life might lie beyond. The Psalm takes this a step further, pleading God from a “very low” place (such as the prison of the grave) for rescue. The Epistle and Collect, in turn, deliver us God’s answer to that prayer: Jesus has gone to that prison of the grace, and risen again; and therefore, through Baptism, so shall death yield for us spiritual life that will revive us completely and eternally.

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The Triduum

“Triduum” is Latin for “three days,” and it refers to the final sequence of days this week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.  Together they tell, remember, and reenact the final days of Jesus’ pre-resurrection life.

Thursday was the Last Supper, his arrest, and abandonment by his disciples.  That’s why we have a mostly-normal Communion service that ends with the shock of stripping the altar and leaving in silence without any benediction or blessing or dismissal.  That’s also to highlight the fact that the story isn’t over yet: Jesus’ trials continued overnight and into the next day, leading up to his condemnation, crucifixion, and death.

Altar of Repose

Here is the reserved bread & wine covered in white linens with a candle keeping vigil. This is what would normally be called an “altar of repose.”

Jesus’ last day (Good Friday) is characterized by a much more solemn worship service than usual.  The prayers include periods of silence, and Communion is not celebrated.  Instead, some consecrated bread and wine is reserved on Thursday to be received today.  The tradition of not consecrating any more bread and wine on Good Friday and Saturday is best understood in the context of historic Western Christianity: normally throughout the year priests celebrate daily mass – celebrating each day the death and resurrection of Christ.  But on these two days that patterns stops.  Because for two brief days, as we’re walking through Holy Week and the Triduum and approaching Easter, we follow Christ to his death.  Once the reserved bread and wine are consumed on Friday, his sacramental presence on earth is completely gone.  This is a dramatic recapturing of his death!

Holy Saturday, then, is a short and quiet worship service meditating on the repose of Jesus in the tomb – his sabbath rest, if you will.  Like the first disciples, it is a time of quiet uncertainty, but unlike them it’s a time of waiting, since we already know the whole story, and that he will rise again.

Then on Saturday night is the tradition of the Great Vigil of Easter.  This is arguably the most sublime and beautiful worship service in the entire tradition of the Church.  It begins in darkness with the light of Christ being symbolically re-lit on a special candle.  It continues with a series of readings from the Old Testament, tracing the story of God’s salvation for the human race throughout history, finally culminating in the moment all this has been building up to: the joyful celebration of the resurrection of Jesus!  Traditionally, this has also been a time for baptisms, or at least the renewing of our baptismal vows.

God be with you this holy and blessed weekend, through to Resurrection Sunday, and unto the ages of ages.

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Good Friday

(18 April 2014)

The Collects:

ALMIGHTY God, we beseech you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross, who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all estates of men in your holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

O MERCIFUL God, who has made all men, and hates nothing that you have made, nor wishes the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all who follow false religions, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of your Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hates nothing that you have made and forgives the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Readings:
Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 140:1-9; Hebrews 10:1-25; John 19:1-37

Reflection:
Good Friday is all about Christ dying on the Cross. One more time that is the subject of the Gospel reading; one more time the Epistle reading links it to Christ’s ministry as a priest sanctifying his people; one more time the Psalm is a cry for help in the voice of Christ. And while we are invited, in the Epistle reading, to persevere in worship and faith in light of Christ’s sacrifice, the primary thing we are called to do is simply stop and look. The Old Testament reading tells the brief tale of the Israelites being afflicted, for their sins, by venomous serpents. We are told that the cure God offers them is by a bronze image of a serpent, lifted up on a pole, which the people must come to and look at. In the same way we go to Jesus, the perfect man, lifted up on a cross, and we look to him, and are cured of our sin. And in that moment of purifying intimacy we pray (as in the Collect) for God to look at us in return.

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Thursday before Easter, commonly called Maundy Thursday

(17 April 2014)

The Collects:
LORD Jesus Christ, who in this wonderful Sacrament has given us a memorial of your passion: Grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood, that we may know within ourselves the fruits of your redemption: who are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hates nothing that you have made and forgives the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Readings:
Exodus 12:1-24; Psalm 43; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Luke 23:1-49

Reflection:
“Maundy” Thursday refers to the mandatum – the commandments – which Jesus gives to his people at the last supper: “love one another as I have loved you.” Today’s readings, rather than reporting those words, show us instead how he loved us. Once again the Gospel account relates to us the death of Jesus, but this time in the context of Passover and Eucharist. In the Passover, God’s people celebrated the sparing of their firstborn sons in Egypt. And, as the Old Testament reading says, they were commanded to keep that celebration forever. At the last supper Jesus transformed that Passover feast into its New Covenant form, which we know as the Eucharist, and which today’s Epistle reading teaches us about and today’s Collect meditates upon. So the Gospel reading’s account of Christ’s death – himself being God’s own firstborn Son – is also transformed from a story of sadness to one of joy. And so we celebrate, with Psalm 43, “I will go to the altar of God: to God my joy and gladness.”

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