The services of Holy Week are individual parts of a single great service in which we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This foundational event of the Christian faith is the Paschal Mystery. Just as the ancient Passover (Pesach in Hebrew, Pasch in Latin) commemorates the deliverance from slavery and the Covenant established between God and the chosen people of Israel, the Passover of God’s New Covenant celebrates the deliverance of all humankind from the power of sin and death, into the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. Early in our Christian history, the liturgical observance known as the Triduum (Trih-duh-oom, Latin for “three days”), comprising the arrest, trial, execution and burial of Jesus, and his resurrection “on the third day,” came to being. The services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the Great Vigil of Easter, together with Palm Sunday, focus on aspects of the Paschal Mystery. None of the services is complete in itself. It is only by entering fully into the commemoration of the Paschal Mystery through the experience of Holy Week worship that its meaning can be truly understood and richly experienced.
THE SUNDAY OF THE PASSION: PALM SUNDAY
Our walk with Christ begins with a festive Procession of Palms recalling his walk from Bethany into Jerusalem. This is not a historic re-creation of an event long past; we are disciples proclaiming Jesus’ saving presence today. When we wave our palms and sing “Hosanna,” we claim our own belief in his presence and power.
The second part of the Liturgy includes a reading known as “The Passion,” the account of our Lord’s suffering and death. This is the only Sunday of the year that the story of our Lord’s death is read. The gospel account is from Matthew, Mark, or Luke, according to our three-year lectionary cycle. From the joy of the triumphal procession, to the intensity of The Passion Gospel reading, this service generates many emotions. This range of feelings will be experienced again and again in the course of the week.
In my homily for this Passion Sunday, I invited all to prepare a simple bowl, filled with water. Much as the First Station of the Way of the Cross, may we wash our hands, not as Pilate to remove any part of Jesus from our life, but to be cleansed in the eternal Love that heals always, and love us to death into life eternal. I have attached the image of the bowl of water from our Interactive Stations of the Cross at St. Thomas’s, along with a copy of my homily for your meditation and reflection.
Collect for Passion Sunday
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Fr. Paul Gennett