Holy Week, Batman! (Mar 2007)

I used to belong to a group of clergywomen that gave each other questions every Friday for publication. I am not ordained, but I got to join, anyway. Here is a look back at the questions I answered about Holy Week back in the day…………………………… #prayingonthespaces

From the RevGalBlogPals:

Well, the Clergy Superbowl is almost upon us, and so, I offer up this Friday Five (with apologies for the irreverent title):

1. Will this Sunday be Palms only, Passion only, or hyphenated?

The Episcopalians are awash in the pageantry of The Passion. There are hour and a half long services for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and a vigil that lasts from the Good Friday service at noon until the Easter Vigil the next night. For this reason, I wish that Palm Sunday could just be Palm Sunday. Believe me when I tell you that all of the Passion bases are covered.

Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church is also fond of the Palm/Passion Super Combo. It’s Palm, it’s Passion… It’s Palm, It’s Passion… It’s two, TWO services in ONE!

So you enter into the church with palm fronds and festivities, then you leave feeling like someone kicked you really hard in the gut. Or at least, I do. Crucifixion is messy. It’s hard to deal with. Besides it being very bloody, if you have a close relationship with God, it’s like seeing one of your friends get murdered… and in fact, some churches like to capitalize on that fact. My friend Paul used to the lead trumpet player at First Baptist Church, and he said that Palm/Passion Sunday was the worst day of his life, because in their version, it took Jesus eight minutes to die. Eight minutes of screaming, grunting, terrifying little children.

I am grateful that my church keeps me mindful of Jesus’ pain and suffering, but would, under no circumstances, show a movie or make a dramatic reenactment just to drive home a point.

They seem to have hit the nail on the head in terms of balance. Oh, God. I am going to hell.

As one of my former pastors used to say, “suffering is not a competitive sport. Jesus isn’t special because he suffered more than us. He’s special because he suffered with us.”

It’s true. I get the same feeling on Palm/Passion Sunday that I do when walking through a Holocaust museum, reading about the civilian casualties in Iraq, wondering why Pol Pot was able to murder millions of Cambodians unchecked while we went after Saddam Hussein instead…

2. Maundy Thursday Footwashing: Discuss.

First of all, ew. I know it’s symbolic, but it’s also a little bit gross. I just thank God that in this day and age, no one has to wash someone’s feet that’s just walked fifty miles barefoot through the sand.

That being said, I don’t have a huge problem with it or anything. At Trinity in Portland, I had a problem with the way it was executed, though. The altar guild was put in charge of washing everyone’s feet, and they all wore these special outfits (red aprons, black clothes, etc.) to do it in. To me, it took away all the symbolism of the mighty washing the feet of the meek, because in my perfect little world, the mighty and the meek look exactly the same. They don’t stand out in bright red, anyway.

3. Share a particularly meaningful Good Friday worship experience.

I’ve had issues with Good Friday since having the holy shit scared out of me in adolescence. I would rather just hide under the bed until the Great Vigil (see bonus question). Because of this, I try to emotionally disconnect and focus on the ritual and the music. If you skip the Good Friday service, you’re missing out on some of the great minor hymns, dark chords bordering on jazz dissonance in the choir anthems, and the wonderful feeling to be found in performing them.

Maybe someday I’ll make my peace with Good Friday, and let it be more a day of remembrance than fear.

4. Easter Sunrise Services–choose one:

a) “Resurrection tradition par excellence!”
b) “Eh. As long as it’s sunrise with coffee, I can live with it.”
c) “[Yawn] Can’t Jesus stay in the tomb just five more minutes, Mom?!?”

I don’t feel very stongly about this issue… or maybe I do, since I’ve only been to one sunrise service in my entire life, and my dad preached them for the first 17 years of my life.

5. Complete this sentence: It just isn’t Easter without…


Dana made me laugh so hard that I almost wet myself when I went to lunch at her house for the first time, which was, in fact, Easter 2003.

The funniest thing was that she didn’t mean to make me laugh, and I think she might have even been a little offended that I laughed, but come on. When you hear what I laughed about, you’ll laugh, too.

Dana’s family has LAMB for Easter. It’s a tradition. Apparently, lots and lots of people have LAMB for Easter. I did not know this.

Perhaps Easter lunch should *actually* be roast lamb, fava beans, and a nice chianti.

And yes, it is not lost on me that communion is Jesus’ body and blood as well. Transubstantiation isn’t any less disgusting an idea when thought of literally, either.

But then again, with communion there are no leftover Jesus sandwiches.

Bonus: Any Easter Vigil aficionados out there? Please share.

I attended my first Easter Vigil service when I was in the choir at Trinity Cathedral in Portland. There are no adjectives to adequately describe my joy when suddenly, in the middle of the service, all the lights went on at the same time and IT WAS EASTER! It’s magnificent, it restores my faith in humanity. The only thing that’s wrong with the Great Easter Vigil is that it kind of makes waking up the next morning and going to church anti-climactic… especially as a choir member, who won’t get home until well after midnight and will have to be back at the church by 8:00 at the latest.

That’s barely enough time to put the Peeps™ in the microwave.


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