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Holy Week

From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday Christians remember the events of that week in Jerusalem, when Jesus walked towards his death on the cross, followed by the stupendous news of the resurrection. We hear about these events nearly every Sunday through our Communion liturgy, but during Holy Week we focus on the details and try to experience the grief and joy, the loss and the surprise more intensely. Some churches get a lot more into the liturgical celebration than others. Catholic and Anglo-Catholic churches for example tend to have many and long services. Some of the more modern, charismatic churches have just one Easter service, because the pastor and most of the congregation are away on holidays. Here at St Paul’s we probably sit somewhere in the middle by offering some special services, but not too many and constant services throughout Holy Week.

While I was at St John’s College I was in a group that was part of the Holy Week celebrations at the Auckland Cathedral. The planning for this week was impressive; it was carried out with precision by many and various participants. The precentor at the Cathedral is very experienced and puts in many hours to get this series of services arranged. I was only involved in some of the preparation, but I was there for all the services from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Indeed, there was little else I did during these days. It was a very intense time. This was the celebration of the Paschal Triduum—the three days of remembering Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection during the Passover (Pesach in Hebrew, Paskha in Aramaic, Pascha in Greek). I would recommend such an intentional time of remembrance. I would find it difficult to do it every year, and so the Anglican low church tradition may be a compromise.

I still remember stepping out on the balcony of the Cathedral in Parnell at the end and watching over Hobson Bay, the Hauraki Gulf and the leafy roads and suburbs of Auckland. I realised that I now had to bring that experience into the daily life, the streets filled with busy, hurting, arrogant, lonely, striving and friendly people. And that remains the challenge for all our remembering and worship. I hope that it will equip us to meet others and bring God’s love to the world.