Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holy Week and Easter

Could there be a more busy time in the whole church year?  Between the preparation of worship bulletins, sermons, baptismal preparation of the Vigil candidates, and the services themselves, it is overwhelming from the perspective of the Pastor.  It can also be overwhelming from the perspective of the folks in the pew.  In my first parish I re-introduced Lenten services and introduced the full compliment of Holy Week services.  As the Easter Sunday crowd was leaving the building, one of the charter members of the congregation was standing there waiting for his wife who was gabbing with someone.  So I went up to him full of pride and asked, "Well, John, what did you think of the Holy Week and Easter services?"  I was not prepared for his answer.  "Too d____ much church."

He was not prepared for the full unfolding of the Triduum (Holy Thursday through the Vigil).  It was more than he was ready for.  At the time I was wounded and disappointed.  Now I see what he was saying.  He was overwhelmed by it all and coming one service after another, he did not have time to think or reflect or even react to what was happening in the Church.  He gave it a try again the following year with better results but it was more than he had experienced before and it was still jarring.  I take that not as criticism but as a reflection of how far we live our lives from the paschal mystery.  It IS jarring because it pulls us into a mystery we have but dabbled in and it makes us a participant in that mystery as it unfolds and is lived out in the liturgies of this week.

I once was disappointed when folks did not think that Holy Week and Easter were the best of all the services and the best of all the times in the church year.  Now I am not so disappointed.  It is not that they do not get it -- what they get is more than they have gotten before.  To a people who live our lives with God on the fringes and with ourselves in the middle, it is a challenging experience.  It is not just that the celebration of the Passion and Pascha was not done before or in this way before.  It is that too often what happens on Sunday morning barely touches on the death that gives life and the life that cannot die.  Between the programs and theme Sundays (from all over the Church) and the secular calendar and the ordinary things of our daily lives, we have grown distant from the Passion and death of Christ and so to celebrate it as the Church does is an abrupt shift for many of our folks.  Easter has become a once a year message instead of the life giving and life changing event that forever shapes our identity and perspective anew.  So when it all comes boiling down upon the folks, it is no surprise that it is overwhelming to them...

So be patient with those who pick and choose of the services, who find it all more than they expected, and who might not be as effusive in their praise of this liturgical week as you are... they are learning and growing to see through the lens of these services... and what they learn and see is the Paschal Mystery lived out right before their eyes and present to them in the Word and Sacraments... Christ has died... Christ is risen... Christ will come again...


Janis Williams said...

Fr. Peters,

There are also those of us who hunger and thirst after this Holy Week in all it's fullness. Thank God there are still pastors who give us Easter every week, and a few who will share the full glories of Holy Week.

John Wurst said...

Pastor Peters,

The Lord be with you. I thank you for these comforting words. Your words are encouragement to a young pastor with much excitement.

I will pass your words along to my flock this week with encouragement to come and receive of the holy things of God which only He can give.

Peace be with you.

+ Pastor Wurst