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In my sermon a few weeks ago, I compared the season of Lent to a 40-day marathon. The liturgy of Palm Sunday brings the finish line of the Lenten marathon into much sharper view. Palm Sunday is the launch point for Holy Week, the holiest week of the church year. On Palm Sunday we hear about Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Many churches include a procession as part of the Palm Sunday liturgy to recreate the pilgrimage Jesus took to Jerusalem. During the procession, people waved palms as Jesus passed by and then lay palms on the ground as he arrived. Palm Sunday is also sometimes known as Passion Sunday because we get to hear the full story of the last week of life, including the trial, crucifixion, and death. It is often told in dramatic fashion, with congregation members sharing in reading the parts of the gospel story. Holy Week concludes with the Triduum, a Latin word meaning “three days,” of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.


During the Maundy Thursday service, we remember Jesus’s last meal with his friends. The word maundy comes from the Latin for “commandment,” so on that day we remember the things Jesus commanded his disciples to do in his memory. The Maundy Thursday service also often includes the act of foot-washing as a symbol of servanthood and to replicate an act Jesus did for his disciples at that last supper. The Maundy Thursday service concludes with the stripping of the altar of everything that usually adorns it. It is also the only time that the sanctuary light is extinguished and removed from the chancel.


The story continues on Good Friday, in a solemn service focusing on the crucifixion. It includes a period of time for the veneration of the cross, where those in attendance can spend time contemplating the significance of Jesus’s death on the cross. Participation in Stations of the Cross, reenacting Jesus’s final days, is a common practice on Good Friday. 


While there can be a brief liturgy on Holy Saturday, generally more attention is focused on the Easter Vigil, beginning after sunset on Saturday evening. It is in that service where a large fire is lit, the Paschal candle is lit from that fire as a symbol of Christ, and Christ’s resurrection is proclaimed with readings and music. The solemnity of the early part of the Triduum gives way to a glorious celebration by the time we reach the Easter Vigil. 


I find that going through the whole range of Holy Week services helps make the celebration of Easter even more meaningful. I encourage you to attend as many services during Holy Week as your schedule allows.


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