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Notes from the From the Vicar


From the Vicar

Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, is the busiest time of the year for the Episcopal Church, as well as other denominations that follow a liturgical calendar. Many churches offer services every day of Holy Week, which is actually eight days long.

Palm Sunday, which is also called the Sunday of the Passion, falls on April 2 this year. The two names are explained in the bipolar nature of the worship service of the day, which is divided into two parts.

The service begins with the Liturgy of the Palms. Weather permitting, the service usually begins outdoors, although it can begin indoors in a location other than the church itself (like the Parish Hall). Traditionally, palm branches and/or other greenery are blessed and distributed among the congregation.

There is singing and a reading from one of the Gospels recounting the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is a time of celebration, just as the Lord’s followers celebrated by laying palm fronds on the road ahead of Jesus. This joyful procession is led by the cross into the church.

The tone of the service changes after the first lessons of the day with the Solemn Reading of the Passion Gospel. When possible, members of the congregation read the various parts of the Gospel. Music played and sung should focus on the passion and death of Christ. The intent is for the congregation to experience the Passion of Christ and his death on the cross.

Following the service, the ministers and people should leave the church property in silence. As much as we like our fellowship with one another, this is not the time for talking with one another. That is the main reason we are not having our usual first Sunday of the month potluck luncheon.

You might be asking why do we observe Palm Sunday this way. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to only celebrate the triumphant entrance of Christ?

While I could not find any written commentary on this, I believe the reason is that in ancient times, the Passion of Jesus Christ was observed by the Church on Good Friday (which, of course, it still is). In those days, church attendance on Good Friday was as numerous as it was on Palm Sunday. However, IMHO, attendance on Good Friday dropped considerably over the years, and rather than lose the significance of Christ’s Passion, the observance was added to the Palm Sunday service.

In addition to Good Friday, the other major worship service between Palm Sunday and Easter in the Episcopal Church is Maundy Thursday, which observes what occurred during what is often called “The Last Supper.” It gets its name from the Greek word for commandment because this night recalls Jesus giving his disciples the commandment to love one another just as he loved them. He demonstrated this love by washing their feet as a servant would do. The night also reminds us of the institution of the Eucharist.

There will be two Good Friday worship services at Epiphany. The Liturgy of Good Friday during the day, with Communion from the Reserved Sacrament, and the Stations of the Cross that evening.

The first Easter occurred during the Jewish observance of the Passover, the night the Angel of Death “passed over” the homes of the Israelites in Egypt, preceding their escape from bondage and the beginning of their journey to the Holyland. This event is remembered each year on the first night of the Passover celebration with a Meal, called the Seder Meal.

This year, Passover begins on the Wednesday of our Holy Week, so we will celebrate with our Jewish friends and neighbors with our own Seder Meal. Following the service, we will have a potluck supper.

Easter Sunday concludes Holy Week and begins the Fifty Days of Eastertide. Considered by most Christians as the holiest of days on the church calendar, it marks the end of our Lenten days of penitence and the return of the “alleluias!”

While chocolate bunnies and Easter egg hunts are fun, we should all remember that the day celebrates Jesus Christ overcoming death for us all. As my friend and colleague, the Rev. David Knight of St. Simon’s-on-the-Sound said on his first Easter Sunday in the Episcopal Church, “Yay Jesus!”



(All services at the Church of the Epiphany unless otherwise noted)

April 2 – 10:00 a.m. Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

April 5 – 6:00 p.m. Passover observance followed by potluck dinner

April 6 – 6:00 p.m. Maundy Thursday worship service

April 7 – 12 noon Good Friday liturgy

                6:00 p.m. Stations of the Cross

April 9 – 6:30 a.m. Community Easter Sunrise Service

                                Spanish Trail Park

                10:00 a.m. Easter Sunday worship

Rev. David  Clothier

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