Holy Week is the tradition of the Christian church of reminding ourselves of the most significant week of redemptive history: the time when our Lord was betrayed, scourged, nailed on the cross, and laid in a tomb. Through the events of Holy Week, we find forgiveness for our sins and the world is redeemed from the curse.
The spiritual significance of this week can be seen in the names given to it throughout church history. It has been called Major Week, Greater Week, Authentic Week, Passion Week, Week of Salvation, Sorrowful Week, and Mournful Week. For those who follow the church year, the heart of Holy Week is the three-day commemoration (often called Triduum) that begins on Thursday evening and ends on Easter Sunday morning. These three days constitute the heart of the church year, for during this time we move through the Last Supper, the denial by Judas, the Garden of Gethsemane, and our Lordâ€™s trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The days are called Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
Today, April 22, is considered Good Friday. Since our church started having a Good Friday service, it has become one of my favorite services of the year. But perhaps you do not belong to a church that follows that tradition. You might do this on purpose, still convinced that these matters are not helpful. To each his own. But for those who are reading of these matters for the first time, perhaps you are interested in this tradition. If so, go to a Good Friday Service. Find one in your community and attend it. If it is too late, make the plans to attend one next year, and perhaps a Maundy Thursday service that reflects on the institution of the Lord’s Supper.
Since it is Friday afternoon, perhaps I can provide a few suggestions for observing the Passion of our Lord, and the first would be to read about it. “Passion” is the Christian term used to describe the events of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. The term originated in connection to the Greek verb paschÅ, to suffer, and was used in the Latin Vulgate (passionem) and by Wyclif who retained the word by using “passion” in English. In our Good Friday service, we alternate between the reading of John’s Gospel and the hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”
Reading: John 18:1-27 (Betrayal, Arrest, & Trial)
O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish,
which once was bright as morn!
Reading: John 18:28-40 (Jesus before Pilate)
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
was all for sinnersâ€™ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! â€™
Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
Reading: John 19:1-24 (The Crucifixion of Jesus)
What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to Thee.
Reading: John 19:25-37 (The Death of Jesus)
My Savior, be Thou near me
when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
by virtue of Thine own!