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Holy Week - a brief Guide

By Elaine Bardwell - Posted on 19 February 2012

You will find full listings of services going on throughout Holy Week under the News items on the home page in the section called 'This week at St Michael's' and also see the Events tab and Calendar. Under the entries in Events you will find a bare outline of what happens at each of the services listed.
But why do these services matter? What are we doing by spending so much time this week in church? This is a very brief guide to a topic which would really take a large book to go into fully. You will find speciific entries in the Vicar's section of the home page. They are not of equal length and you can go straight to the part or parts of interest to you. The entries are:

  • Holy Week as a whole (this is the one you are reading now)
  • Palm Sunday
  • Monday to Wednesday of Holy Week
  • Maundy Thursday morning
  • Maundy Thursday evening
  • Good Friday
  • Holy Saturday
  • Easter Day

Holy Week as a whole
Many regular church going Christians know that Easter is important and more people than usual do make the effort of getting to church on Easter day but not so many will have been to the previous Sunday's service or anything during the week and although the church flowers look lovely they are missing a whole dimension to this the first of 50 glorious days. 
Of course some have work commitments so it is not always possible to get time off to do the full Holy Week programme justice and this is a proverbial chicken and egg situation because unless you have been brave enough to do the full week you don't realise what a spiritual difference it makes and if you are not sure that you want to spend all that time in church you may not want to book a week's leave to do so. 
So to encourage you: going to the full week's programme is going to bring the maximum spiritual benefit - all the elements and events have been refined over centuries, are celebrated in common by Christians of most denominations world wide, and have proved their worth in helping us to enter fully into the deep themes of suffering, death and life. It is worth having the week free to go to it all as it changes your life and it makes Easter day in particular special in a way you can't imagine before you have been through the lot. And it is precisely because you have been through it all, that this is so - this is not something which you can 'dumb down' in any way for modern convenience. It is, and will always be counter cultural from that point of view - this is not something you can squeeze in. You have to decide this is what you are doing and give over your life for a week. See it as a week's retreat - but at home.
But don't despair if you simply cannot do the full thing this time. Put it on your list of something to be done in the near future. Meanwhile, it is possible to get some of the overall spiritual benefit by engaging with the key elements. These would be: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday night, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. More detail about these are given in the other entries on the website. Between them these services will take you through the major events of the final week of Jesus' earthly existence with its twists and turns from excitement, anticipation, panic, fear, betrayal, denial, torture, pain, death, bereavement, joy and more besides. 
You see there is a lot to get through - this is why taking a whole week is a good idea, nevertheless the highlight events do take you through the essential elements. A renewed and deeper appreciation of the teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus results from this.
And what if you really are busy all week?  You may have the sort of responsibilities which means you can't do midweek or unusal hours. My tip would be make sure you do both Palm Sunday and if at all possible the Easter Vigil (ours is at dawn so you can be home by breakfast if you need to be...) but certainly failing that Palm Sunday + Easter morning - both at 10am. You will then have touched on the key elements - though only just.
If I have got you thinking that you might try to get along to more than you had originally envisaged then read the other topics before you make up your mind. This week is not 'usual church' but more of it - rather it is perhaps best seen as an opportunity to give yourself a spiritual holiday - just like any holiday it is about going away to another place, sharing experiences with others, eating together, and following a different routine to the norm which allows time for recreation. This week is all about giving yourself a spritual treat. The Monday after Easter day is a Bank Holiday so you have time to recover before returning to the usual routine - though will it still be the usual routine after this week?
Travelling the road to freedom, who wants to travel the road with me?  sung on Palm Sunday
Whatever you have time to participate in, have a holy and wonderful Holy Week.
To see all the Holy Week entries click on the 'Vicar' beside 'Tags' which appears at the foot of each item and a full list will be displayed



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