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.

Posted in Devotional | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Devotional | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Devotional | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.”

Posted in Devotional | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wednesday before Easter

(16 April 2014)

The Collects:
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of your tender love towards mankind, has sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same 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:
Isaiah 49:1-9; Psalm 54; Hebrews 9:16-28; Luke 22:1-71

Reflection:
As with two Sundays ago, today brings us to the priestly ministry of Jesus. The topics of making a covenant and offering a sacrifice echo through all the readings. First of all, on a basic level, the Psalm speaks in the voice of Christ, crying out in the midst of danger, yet still freely offering a sacrifice to God. Then, more specifically, at the last supper, Jesus announces his blood of the new covenant, which the Epistle reading explains to be part of his sacrificial offering acting as our High Priest. Once again this is prefigured in the Old Testament by Isaiah, who was pointing out that this sacrifice and covenant were not merely a renewal for the ethnic Israel, but a new covenant which would draw all other nationalities too!

Posted in Devotional | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuesday before Easter

(15 April 2014)

The Collects:
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of your tender love towards mankind, has sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same 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:
Isaiah 50:5-11; Psalm 13; Romans 5:6-19; Mark 15:1-39

Reflection:
Where yesterday highlighted our sinfulness in contrast to God’s faithfulness, we now focus on the positive results of Christ’s death. We read about his suffering and death both directly in the Gospel reading and prefigured in the Old Testament. But Isaiah doesn’t just describe Jesus, he also challenges us, his audience, to be just as bold and faithful in suffering, knowing that the light of Christ in us is brighter than the darkness of this world. (Thus also today’s Psalm begins in mourning and ends in joy.) All of this is made possible because, as the Epistle teaches, Jesus’ death not only demonstrates God’s love, but actually overrules the power of sin and death such that we can stand justified before God.

Posted in Devotional | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Monday before Easter

(14 April 2014)

The Collects:
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of your tender love towards mankind, has sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same 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:
Isaiah 63:1-19; Psalm 55:1-8; Galatians 6:1-11; Mark 14:1-72

Reflection:
Today we are shown a lot of contrasts. The woman at Bethany who anointed Jesus for burial honored him while Judas betrayed him. Peter’s resolution to remain faithful contrasts with his triple denial of Christ. In the garden, only Jesus could stay awake in prayer. And that’s the crux of it: in the final analysis, only Jesus is perfectly faithful. The same contrast of God’s faithfulness versus his peoples’ unfaithfulness shows up in the Old Testament reading. And we, likewise, recognize our own sinful plight! And so we cry out to God for help in the Psalm and are encouraged to pursue a life of faith, thus sowing in the Spirit for eternal life, as the Epistle puts it.

Posted in Devotional | Tagged , , | Leave a comment